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Finally the Cubbies get a leadoff man and make some noise this winter- sorry but Howry and Ere just weren't doin it for me....Go Cubs!!!

DALLAS -- Bob Dernier, Jerome Walton, Brian McRae, Ivan DeJesus and even Ryne Sandberg are some of the past Chicago Cubs' leadoff men, but none of them had the impact that Juan Pierre could have.

The Cubs announced Wednesday they have acquired Pierre from the Florida Marlins for three pitchers, including Sergio Mitre. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry lost in the bidding for free agent Rafael Furcal, a potential leadoff man, and shifted his attention to Pierre at the Winter Meetings.

"He brings a different dimension to our lineup," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Speed does a lot for you. It's not just what he can do, but he can help our young players. He can help them get better jumps and read pitchers. He'll help [Derrek Lee] and the guys behind him get pitches. I'm very, very thrilled to have him."

Pierre batted .276 in 162 games with the Marlins in 2005. He has averaged nearly 97 runs and 52 stolen bases over the last five years, scoring 100 runs in 2003 and '04. The last time a Cubs leadoff man scored 100 runs was McRae in 1996.

The last Cub to steal 50 bases? That was Eric Young, who swiped 54 in 2000.

The price was high. The Cubs dealt Mitre, who has played in 36 Major League games over three seasons, and Double-A starters Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto to the Marlins for Pierre.

"You hate to give up quality young guys, but in this case, that's what you have to do," Hendry said. "We value Juan as one of the best in the game leading off the game. He's an outstanding center fielder and tremendous teammate. We got to see way too much of him in 2003.

"It's no secret that we needed to make some adjustments at the top of the order," Hendry said. "The price of poker was high and a lot of teams were in the same boat we were in."

Leadoff was a problem for the Cubs in 2005, and has been a tough spot to fill. Kenny Lofton showed what a difference a quality leadoff man can make when he arrived for the final few months of 2003 and helped the Cubs win the National League Central. They lost the NL Championship Series to Pierre and the Marlins.

In 2005, the Cubs tried eight different players in the No. 1 spot, and they batted a collective .245. Filling that void has been one of Hendry's top priorities since losing out in the Furcal sweepstakes. The shortstop announced his commitment to the Los Angeles Dodgers two hours before the Cubs formally announced they signed Pierre.

The Cubs didn't lose out on Furcal for lack of trying, the shortstop's agent, Paul Kinzer, said.

"Our two glaring weaknesses that had to be addressed soon were guys who could pitch late in the game before [Ryan Dempster] and the leadoff thing," Hendry said. "It's no secret we chased Rafael Furcal hard, and if we had gotten him, we would've chased Juan Pierre just as hard. We would've loved to have them both. We wanted to come out with at least one, and we were fortunate that after losing Raffy we could pull this one out."

The Marlins are a buyer's market. They have been trimming payroll at a rapid-fire pace, and have parted ways with Carlos Delgado, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota since Thanksgiving.

"We would've liked to have done this a little cheaper," Hendry said. "I commend them, under tough times, how they've gone about their business. They've done a great job acquiring a lot of talent and a couple years down the road, they'll be a strong factor again."

Pierre is fifth-year arbitration eligible and in line to earn about $5.5 million in 2006 before he can file for free agency. A catalyst on the 2003 World Series team, Pierre has a career .305 average, 267 stolen bases and a .355 on-base percentage.

The Cubs do have highly touted outfielder Felix Pie, who missed the last two months of 2005 because of an ankle injury. He is expected to open the season at Triple-A Iowa.

"We didn't look at Juan as a guy we're going to have one year," Hendry said. "We love Felix Pie, and if he does what we hope he can do, and we're fortunate to keep Juan longer, I see no problem with Felix playing somewhere else besides center field. If it works out the way we hope, we'll find plenty of room for our own guys, too."

The Cubs have projected rookie Matt Murton in left field, and with the addition of Pierre, the team must decide what to do with center fielder Corey Patterson. He does not have the arm to play right field and is coming off a disappointing year in which he batted .215. Right field is still vacant.

"I'll try to balance what I said all along I would do, which is, obviously, first and foremost, our obligation to do what's best for the Chicago Cubs," Hendry said when asked about Patterson. "Because of our long relationship, I would always keep in mind what's best for Corey Patterson.

"In a perfect world, I wish I knew he could come back and be the guy we'd all hoped he'd be and rectify the one year. At the same time, if I felt putting him in a deal that makes us better or would be in his best interests, I certainly would consider that."

Mitre, 24, was 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 21 games (seven starts) for the Cubs in 2005, and went 5-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A Iowa. Nolasco, a fourth-round pick in 2001, was 14-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A West Tenn. Pinto, a Venezuelan lefty who has been in the Cubs system since 1999, was 10-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) for West Tenn.

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Eventhough this went down yesterday, it's still great news if youre a Cubs fan. "Slappy" is a player the Cubs have needed for quite awhile now and is sure to make an impact for the Northside Nine next season. Hopefully the Cubbies can make a few more moves this offseason(like possibly get Manny from Boston and bring back Sosa), combine them with Lee, Ramirez and their awesome starting rotation (if they can finally stay healthy) and maybe, just maybe the Cubs will be back in the hunt for the NL Central in '06.

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