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Cubs Sign Kent Mercker

The Cubs filled the spot in the bullpen which last year was held by Mark Guthrie, by signing the well-traveled lefty Kent Mercker to a one-year contract, with the usual "terms not disclosed".

The Cubs will be Mercker's ninth team (Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Boston, Anaheim, and Colorado the other eight, with two stops each in Atlanta and Cincinnati). He was always on the fringes of the great Atlanta pitching staffs, and they always had high hopes for him, but he never quite made it. His lifetime ERA is just about league average (4.27 to a 4.30 league average), and he will be 36 in February. I guess the Cubs have reserved a bullpen spot for a "veteran lefty", and he's it.

What worries me most is that he walked a ton of batters last year (32 in 55 1/3 IP, and 7 in 17 with the Braves), so despite having a gaudy 1.95 ERA (ERA's almost always being a misleading stat for relievers), he wasn't all that effective in 2003.

The Cubs could have done better, but they could have done worse; Mercker, unlike lefty Mike Remlinger, seems to be reasonably effective against left-handed batters, as well as righties (Remlinger is generally more effective against right-handed batters, odd for a lefty reliever).

For the fifth or sixth guy in the bullpen, this isn't a terrible choice, especially if the money isn't too much.