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After watching every other ambulatory free agent shortstop sign a lucrative contract this off-season, Jeff Blauser finally decided to take matters into his own mitts and had his agent call the shortstop-challenged Cubs. Now, with a two-year, $8.4 million deal, Blauser is getting exactly what he asked for: the chance to help raise a bad team up from the depths of hell. Blauser surpassed himself by hitting .308, with 17 homers and 70 RBIs for Atlanta last year. But he has to do even moreas in 85 RBIsif he hopes to turn the Cubbies into winners.
What They Needed: A second baseman to replace the retired Ryne Sandberg, a top-of-the-line closer, another slugger to team with Sammy Sosa, more starting pitchers.
What They Got: Shortstop Jeff Blauser and second baseman Mickey Morandini, closer Rod Beck from the Giants, power-hitting outfielder Henry Rodriguez from the Expos.
What it All Means: Although they both whiff a lot, the addition of Rodriguez to the lineup should help protect Sosa. Blauser and Morandini are smooth fielders with some offensive punch. Adding Beck was nice, but his impact may be limited by the starting staff. The Cubs definitely helped themselves, but they've still got a ways to go.
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