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Free Agent Lieber, Cubs Close One Year Deal

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                Jon Lieber          Jon Lieber

Free Agent pitcher Jon Lieber, a 20 game winner with the Chicago Cubs in  2001, rejoins the Cubs in a one year, $3.5 million deal with another $ 4 million in incentives. 

His 20-6 season in 2001 was the pinnacle of his career having pitched 232 1/3 innings and ending with a 3.80 ERA in 34 games.

Lieber underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002 and missed the 2003 season but has been free of arm problems since.  After spending the 2004 season with the New York Yankees, he signed a 3 year, $21 million deal with the Phillies and carried the staff’s most wins in 2005 with a 17-13 mark and 4.20 ERA.  In 2006, he slumped to 9-11 with a 4.93 ERA and in 2007, he was sidelined through most of the season with a ruptured tendon in his foot which required surgery and finished 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA.

While the Phillies may be glad that the nearly 38 year old Lieber is gone;  Phillies Nation’s Tim Malcolm surmises that “his best days are likely behind him — maybe in Chicago he’ll redeem himself a bit…”, the Cubs seem glad to feel that they’ve bolstered their starting pitching through his acquisition.

Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan repports the view of Cub management toward the acquisition;

“It gives us more depth with our starting pitching,” manager Lou Piniella said. “He’s experienced, a really good competitor, a good guy in the clubhouse and well-respected. He can come to camp and earn a spot in the rotation.”

“We’re really happy to bring back Jon Lieber,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “I think it makes a lot of sense. We’re trying to get as much volume as we can, depth-wise, into the rotation to make it more competitive in camp… You like to have seven or eight type of starters available (in spring training).”

Lieber will compete with Ryan Dempster for the No. 5 spot, with Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall also on the periphery, assuming neither gets traded. Kevin Hart is likely to be given a chance to make the team in middle relief or long relief, Piniella said.

But whatever Lieber has left in the tank, the Phillies apparently decided that a repeat of a nearly 5.00 ERA is not a luxury they can afford.   Hopefully, he doesn’t come back to haunt the Phils either during the regular season on in the post-season play.

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