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LaTroy Hawkins, Part Deux

It now appears that the Cubs have indeed signed LaTroy Hawkins, though curiously, on the Cubs' own website the story just says it's "reported" that he's signed.

You'd think the official voice of the club ought to know, but this is all part of the arcane way that major league deals are done. Ostensibly, the reason is that he has to pass a physical, but this may also be because of the Sunday deadline for arbitration, and something to do with the Cubs having to give up a draft pick for him, which they will probably have to do anyway.

The deal is for $11 million, with incentives that could raise it to $15 million. This is a lot to pay for a middle reliever, but Hawkins may be the best in the game, and the last two years combined, he has thrown 157 2/3 innings, allowed only nine home runs, and walked only 30 batters. This is something we haven't seen out of a Cub reliever in a long time.

It's possible that Hawkins will be given the chance to close, as he did in Minnesota in 2001; he had 28 saves but an ugly 5.96 ERA and 39 walks and 36 strikeouts that year in 51 innings. Maybe he had one or two bad outings that led to the bad ERA, or maybe he just wasn't ready to close then.

I think the closer's job ought to be Joe Borowski's to lose, but there are two factors here: first, that Borowski is a class enough act that if the job is given to Hawkins, JoeBo will go back to the setup role without complaint, and second, if Borowski remains the closer, the Cubs will be very strong in left-handed and right-handed setup, as well as having someone who could step into the closer's role if Borowski gets hurt or falters.

This is an odd position for me to be in -- to compliment a Cub free-agent signing without any reservations or hesitations. Good work!

Of course, we said that about Mel Rojas in 1997, too.