NORMAL — The Normal CornBelters have re-signed shortstop Santiago Chirino, who will take aim at the Frontier League career hits record during his sixth season with the team in 2018.

"I think everybody understands Chirino is one of the cornerstones of this organization," Normal manager Brooks Carey said Tuesday. "It's no coincidence he's the first guy we've signed (for 2018). We signed him first out of respect."

Chirino, who has excelled defensively at both shortstop and second base for Normal, is the reigning Frontier League batting champion after a career-high .357 mark last season and a three-time all-star.

The Venezuelan is Normal's franchise leader in at-bats (1,846), hits (588), stolen bases (48) and runs scored (263). He enters the coming season 47 shy of the Frontier League record for hits of 635 owned by Chris Sidick.

"He is as good as I've ever coached when it comes to the whole package," said Carey. "Nobody in the league handles the bat like he does. He's got to be the toughest out in the league. Second base is his primary position, but he goes to shortstop and he's an all-star shortstop, too."

Dudley to Atlantic League: Normal has traded veteran first baseman Aaron Dudley to Somerset of the Atlantic League for a player to be named later.

The Belters' franchise record holder in doubles (120) and RBIs (290), Dudley was ineligible to return to Normal in 2018 because of Frontier League age restrictions.

"He wanted to play in Normal as long as he could," Carey said. "We tried to take care of him as much as we could. He has some old teammates there. He's had a Hall of Fame career, and Chirino is on the same path."

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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