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Hawkins turns down more money to sign with Cubs
By NANCY ARMOUR, AP Sports Writer
December 4, 2003
AP - Dec 3, 5:58 pm EST
CHICAGO (AP) -- LaTroy Hawkins could have had more money. He could have had a closer's job. He could have played for the perennial World Series-contender New York Yankees.
Instead, Hawkins decided to go where he was wanted most. He decided to go home.
``I grew up in Gary, Ind., and it was always a dream of mine to become a Cub,'' the right-handed reliever said Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with the Chicago Cubs that guarantees him $11 million over three years.
``It's a dream come true. What more can I say?''
Hawkins is still getting a lot of money. He gets a $2 million signing bonus in the deal, $2 million next year and $3.5 million in 2005, and he has a $3.5 million option for 2006.
He could earn another $1.3 million annually if he would become Chicago's closer.
But as one of the top relievers in the free-agent market, Hawkins could probably have gotten an even better deal. He was 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 77 1-3 innings for the Minnesota Twins last year, and his 28 holds tied for third in the majors.
Since he moved to the setup role in 2002, Hawkins is 15-3 with a 2.00 ERA in 139 games.
``He was the guy that we wanted all along, and I knew he would be a hot ticket in the free-agent world because he had two terrific years in a row,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.
``We knew we were not going to be the lone ranger with a good offer.''
But Hendry told Hawkins early on that he was the player the Cubs wanted, their priority this offseason. And no wonder. Though Chicago has one of the best starting rotations in the majors, its middle relief has been shaky, at best. Cubs relievers were 20-19 with a 4.16 ERA last season last season.
It may sound simple, but knowing how much the Cubs wanted him meant a lot to Hawkins.
``He said I was their guy, and they made the necessary effort to make me their guy,'' Hawkins said. ``Me being from Gary, that was a big influence.''
Hawkins, who turns 31 later this month, has spent his entire 13-year career in the Twins organization. But he can still rattle off the names of his favorite Cubs from when he was growing up. He was in a major league park only once before he began playing, and that was Wrigley Field, back in 1981.
And though Hawkins and his wife, Anita, now live in Texas, both of their families are still in the Gary area.
``Not too many people get a chance to play close to home,'' Hawkins said when asked why he passed on more lucrative or glamorous offers.
``I think I'd be happier here in Chicago than I would be elsewhere. And happiness is better than any amount of money, right?''
There was some thought the Cubs might make Hawkins a closer again. Joe Borowski saved 33 games last year, but he only became a closer because Antonio Alfonseca got hurt in spring training.
``I talked to Joe, and he said it didn't matter to him as long as he was on the team and got a chance to pitch,'' Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. ``Things are always subject to change ... but right now, you've got to give Joe the shot because he did so well last year.''
And that's just fine with Hawkins.
``Joe is the closer here in Chicago,'' Hawkins said. ``I came in to help him accomplish that. I came in to get the ball to Joe. That's my job.''
Updated on Thursday, Dec 4, 2003 3:31 am EST
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