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MLB notebook: Chicago City may help fix Wrigley Field

The Chicago Cubs, one of the most popular and lucrative sports franchises in the United States despite their unmatched record of failure, may be getting financial help to renovate historic Wrigley Field from its cash-strapped city.

As the Cubs take the field this week for what may be the 104th straight season without a World Series championship, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has triggered speculation — and raised some eyebrows — by confirming that city officials and the Cub-owning Ricketts family are in the "final stages" of talks on a renovation plan for the 98-year-old ballpark that could include public help.

Neither Emanuel nor anyone else is talking specifics. Given the economic climate, the last thing public officials want to start throwing around is any hint that taxpayers struggling to pay their bills might be asked to help a business that attracts more fans than all but a handful of teams.

"This is not in the course of history the best time to ask for public money for a sports facility," said Al Yellon, who has a Cubs-themed website. "The economy doesn't really support that."

At the same time, Wrigley Field is one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago and that has been a huge reason why the surrounding neighborhood is one of the most popular spots to live.

VOTTO GETS 12-YEAR DEAL: Joey Votto got the big payday by staying in a small market, agreeing to a 12-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that is the longest guaranteed contract in major league history. The deal adds 10 years to his previous contract and includes a club option for 2024, when the first baseman will be winding down his career.

CABRERA SIGNS WITH CLEVELAND: The Indians locked up one of their best players on Wednesday by finalizing a three-year contract with Asdrubal Cabrera, their slick fielding All-Star shortstop who had a breakout season in 2011. Cabrera, who avoided salary arbitration by signing a $4.55 million contract for 2012 this winter, will make $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014.

LANNAN ASKS FOR TRADE: Left-hander John Lannan asked the Washington Nationals for a trade after they demoted him to Triple-A Syracuse, and he declared in an email sent to reporters Wednesday: "I believe that I belong in a big-league rotation."

PETTITTE THROWS SCORELESS INNING: Andy Pettitte threw a scoreless inning in his first game since ending a one-year retirement and the New York Yankees beat the New York Mets 8-3 on Wednesday. Pettitte agreed to a minor league contract on March 16, and could be ready to join the Yankees in May.

NIESE SIGNS EXTENSION: Jonathon Niese can afford his own nose jobs in the future. In the Mets' first major move since resolving the lawsuit by the trustee in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, the team agreed with Niese on a $25.5 million, five-year contract, a person familiar with the deal said.

GIANTS HOLD ON TO ROOKIE CATCHER: Rookie Hector Sanchez spent the winter back home in Venezuela fine-tuning his swing while turning most of his attention to becoming a better defensive catcher. Day after day, he fueled his improvement with thoughts of making the Giants' opening day roster. His power bat did a lot to earn him San Francisco's backup catcher job behind Buster Posey after an impressive spring, leaving Eli Whiteside as odd man out.

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