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Jeff Blauser moves from Atlanta to Chicago

December 10, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ’em.

That’s what the Chicago Cubs did Tuesday, signing former Atlanta Braves shortstop Jeff Blauser to a two-year, $8.4 million contract.

Blauser, a career .268 hitter in 11 seasons with the Braves, had a .351 average against the Cubs. Last season, he averaged .308 but hit .395 against Chicago.

``He has always been a Cub killer,″ said his agent, Scott Boras.

Blauser was effectively cut loose Nov. 17 when shortstop Walt Weiss agreed to a $9 million dollar, three-year contract. Weiss had spent the last four seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

Blauser, 32, was an All-Star last season and had been with the Braves longer than any other player. He set career highs last season for homers (17), batting average and doubles (31), drove in 70 runs and posted a .405 on-base percentage.

He has 109 career homers _ 15 against the Cubs _ and 461 RBIs _ 48 against Chicago. He also was a National League All-Star selection in 1993.

Blauser will be paid $4 million next season and $4.2 million the following year. He will get $7 million if the Cubs pick up the contract’s option in the year 2000. If the option is not exercised, the Cubs would have to pay a $200,000 buyout.

Blauser made $4.02 million last season.

Cubs general manager Ed Lynch said the negotiations didn’t begin until Monday, and the deal was wrapped up late Tuesday.

``I had said that a move we might make (at shortstop) would likely happen from a trade, but we’re happy to be able to go out and add a Silver Slugger winner and an All-Star shortstop to our lineup,″ Lynch said.

Blauser batted in every position except cleanup for Atlanta last year but was most successful in the No. 8 slot, from which he hit .364.

``He can hit fifth for us, or he might hit second,″ Lynch said. ``It all depends on how else we add. We’re not done in terms of our ’98 roster. Hopefully we can add another big bat.″

Boras said Blauser turned down a better offer from another team because he preferred going to Chicago.

Atlanta selected Blauser in the secondary phase of the 1984 free agent draft. He rose through the Braves’ farm system, making his major-league debut in 1987. He was the Braves’ regular shortstop since the start of the 1989 season.

Blauser’s departure is only one of several changes the Braves have made since the end of last season. First baseman Fred McGriff is gone, replaced by Andres Galarraga and a three-year, $24.75 million contract. Blauser’s partner in the double-play combination, Mark Lemke, won’t be back. And the Braves didn’t try to re-sign center fielder Kenny Lofton, who is now with Cleveland.

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox expressed sorrow over the loss of Blauser and Lemke, two of his favorite players.

``It’s hard to part with guys like that because they’ve helped us so much and they can still play,″ Cox said. ``But it’s like everything else in baseball. You adjust. We’re still going to have a good ball club, period.″

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