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Both Chicago teams were busy, too, filling their needs at first base _ Carlos Pena joined the Cubs, Paul Konerko returned to the White Sox.

Outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Matt Diaz found new clubs while designated hitter Jack Cust and former All-Star reliever George Sherrill appeared to be on their way.

Hard to tell about Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett, however. After a trade with Baltimore fell through, the Rays worked on a swap that would send him to San Diego.

Still in play are big-name free agents Adrian Beltre, Magglio Ordonez and Manny Ramirez, along with Lee.

“The winter meetings have usually been a lot about first meetings, and we’re into second and third meetings,” top agent Scott Boras said. “I’ve gotten two deals done here. I’m trying to think back to when that’s happened. It’s been a while.”

Boras put Pena and the Cubs together for what he called a “pillow contract” _ $10 million for one year.

“There’s a lot of comforts,” Boras said.

The 32-year-old Pena hit a career-low .196 this season with 28 home runs and 84 RBIs for Tampa Bay.

“I’m extremely confident. I don’t tend to look back on my failures and dwell upon them,” he said.

The Cubs, who traded star first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta last August, didn’t seem daunted by Pena’s drop-off.

“It’s not a gamble. It’s a real good fit,” GM Jim Hendry asserted. “We have filled all of the essentials that we were looking for with Carlos.”

Konerko got a $37.5 million, three-year deal to stay with the White Sox. The 34-year-old team captain hit .312 with 39 home runs and 111 RBIs last season.

The four-time All-Star was in Mexico, on vacation and overlooking the ocean, when he got a text message that the White Sox had acquired free-agent slugger Adam Dunn. At first, Konerko figured that meant his days in Chicago were Dunn. Then, he reconsidered.

“Maybe they’re actually going to make a push to get both of us,” Konerko thought to himself.

Francoeur, who started last season with the New York Mets and wound up in the World Series with Texas, sounded enthused about becoming an everyday starter in Kansas City.

Story Continues →