CHICAGO - CHICAGO (AP) — The Cubs found the center fielder they'd been searching for, agreeing Thursday to a $15 million, three-year contract with Marlon Byrd.
Byrd hit .283 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs last season for Texas. He will take over in center from Kosuke Fukudome, who will move to right field full-time after the trade of the troubled Bradley to Seattle.
A career .279 hitter with 60 homers and 335 RBIs in 785 major league games with Philadelphia, Washington and Texas, Byrd will be reunited with former Texas and current Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. In three seasons working with Jaramillo in Texas, Byrd batted .295 with 40 homers and 212 RBIs.
"When I knew I had the opportunity to become a Cub, I was really hoping that this would be my landing ground," Byrd said during a conference call with reporters, adding that rejoining Jaramillo made it even better.
"I really enjoyed my last three years with Rudy. I'm very comfortable with him. As you guys have heard over and over again, he is the best in the business. Especially with Rudy and me being close and having that relationship, it's going to work with him another three years."
Byrd gets $3 million next year, $5.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012. He will pretty much replace Bradley, whose signed a $30 million, three-year deal with the Cubs and lasted only one contentious season.
Bradley hit .257 with 40 RBIs and was suspended the final two weeks of the season by general manager Jim Hendry after criticizing the atmosphere surrounding the Cubs.
"I haven't talked to him, as far as baseball, I haven't talked to him since during the season. We tried to go over things as far as what was going on with his swing," Byrd said of Bradley. "But the bit thing about me and Milton is we have a relationship off the field, so I love Milton Bradley, and I'm a little biased when it comes to him. I think he's a great guy. I'm going to talk to him today about coming here. I'm sure he's happy, too. ... He's going to another place to get a fresh start. It's a thing of the past."
Byrd led the Rangers in game-winning RBIs last season with 12 and hit .333 with runners in scoring position.
He has played all three outfield positions during his career and had a .991 fielding percentage last season with only three errors in 341 chances. He made 100 starts for the Rangers in center field, 35 in left and six in right.
The 32-year-old Byrd originally was selected by Philadelphia in the 10th round of the 1999 amateur draft.
"We wanted to come up with what we thought was the right fit in center field. And we felt like we explored every avenue, free agency and trade wise," Hendry said. "We kept coming back to Marlon as being the right guy. It gives us a chance to move Fukudome back to where he's much better defensively in right field. It really helps our overall defensive situation. Marlon, of course is an above-average outfielder and coming off very, very good numbers offensively."