NEW YORK (AP) – Alfonso Soriano is the latest beneficiary of the Chicago Cubs’ spending splurge.

Soriano and the Cubs agreed Monday to a $136 million, eight-year contract

“We’re here to win and win quickly,” said general manager Jim Hendry, acting aggressively following a 66-96 season.

Over a busy weekend following the annual GM meetings:

• First baseman Nomar Garciaparra agreed to an $18.5 million, two-year contract to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

• Outfielder Moises Alou and the New York Mets closed in on a one-year contract worth about $8 million to $9 million, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

• Cincinnati agreed to a $14 million, three-year contract with shortstop Alex Gonzalez and a $5.5 million, two-year deal with left-hander Mike Stanton, then sent catcher Jason LaRue to Kansas City for a player to be named.

• Outfielder Frank Catalanotto and Texas reached a preliminary agreement on a $13 million, three-year deal, a Rangers official said.

• Right-handed reliever Justin Speier agreed to terms of a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels, a deal worth about $18 million and contingent on the 33-year-old passing a physical.

On Monday, the Mets had to inform Tom Glavine whether they will exercise his $14 million option – the team has said it will be declined, allowing the left-hander to choose between New York and a return to the Braves. If he goes to Atlanta, the Mets are likely to try to sign Barry Zito.

Also, the Boston Red Sox are expected to discuss possible trades involving Manny Ramirez, owed $38 million over the final two guaranteed years of his contract. The Angels are a possible trading partner, but Ramirez can’t be dealt without his consent.

Soriano, a former second baseman, could play center field and give the Cubs a leadoff hitter with a combination of speed and power. He had 46 homers and 41 stolen bases last season with the Washington Nationals, batting .277 with 95 RBIs and 41 doubles.

“Suffice it to say a contract like that simply doesn’t fit in with trying to build a team from where we are,” Nationals president Stan Kasten said. “We wish Alfonso well. We have been expecting it, and we’re ready to move on.”

In total dollars, Soriano would trail only Alex Rodriguez ($252 million for 10 years), Derek Jeter ($189 million for 10 years), Ramirez ($160 million for eight years) and Todd Helton ($141.5 million for 11 years).

After hiring Lou Piniella as its new manager, Chicago re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a $75 million, five-year deal, added second baseman Mark DeRosa ($13 million over three years), acquired left-hander Neal Cotts from the White Sox and re-signed pitchers Kerry Wood ($1.75 million) and Wade Miller ($1.5 million), and backup catcher Henry Blanco ($5.25 million over two years). All this activity comes as the team’s parent company, Tribune Co., is weighing options to sell all or some of its holdings.

“In that ballpark and in that city, they should be very excited,” said former White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, currently the New York Mets’ bench coach. “Because of the lack of pitching in our industry, if there is a lack in this area you have to load up on the other side – and people are going to load up on offense. He’s a tremendous player.”

The 33-year-old Garciaparra won the NL comeback player of the year award last season, shifting to first base with the Dodgers. A former shortstop and third baseman, Garciaparra had a .303 batting average and hit 20 homers, matching J.D. Drew for the team lead. He was slowed late in the season by quadriceps and oblique muscle injuries.

Alou hit .301 this year with 22 homers and 74 RBIs in 345 at-bats for the Giants. The 40-year-old, a six-time All-Star with a .301 career average in 15 major league seasons, figures to replace Cliff Floyd, hobbled by an Achilles’ tendon problem for much of the year.

With Alou in left, Carlos Beltran in center and Shawn Green in right, the Mets could move to trade Lastings Milledge, who had a difficult rookie season and appeared to be at odds with some teammates.

The 39-year-old Stanton played for Washington and San Francisco last season, making 82 appearances that proved he hadn’t lost his knack for pitching often. Gonzalez hit .255 with nine homers for Boston last season.

Speier went 2-0 with a 2.98 ERA in 58 appearances for Toronto last season, mostly in a setup role. He struck out 55 and walked 21 in 51 1-3 innings and held opposing batters to a .235 average.

Catalanotto was acquired by the Rangers in a November 1999 trade that sent two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez to Detroit. Catalanotto spent three seasons in Texas, but wasn’t offered a contract after being limited to 68 games because of injury in 2002. He hit .300 with seven homers and 56 RBIs for the Blue Jays this year.



AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich, Rick Gano, Stephen Hawkins, Joe Kay, Janie McCauley and Ken Peters contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-20-06 1708EST



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