A few items to pass along from the Central divisions as Tuesday becomes Wednesday ...
- The Cubs were interested in Chad Qualls before the right-hander eventually signed with the Phillies, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. As it stands now, the back end of the Cubs' bullpen features setup men Jeff Samardzija and Kerry Wood, and closer Carlos Marmol.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has begun the process of overhauling Houston's identity during a time of transition, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Luhnow has already made several key hires toward the goal of shifting the organization's focus to a combination of better scouting and more advanced statistical analysis. A reputed ideas man, Luhnow pitched Astros ownership a 25-page plan for repairing the organization before getting the job, according to Castrovince.
- With arbitration hearings scheduled with two players - Asdrubal Cabrera and Rafael Perez - the Indians' 20-year streak of avoiding arbitration could come to end, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. However, Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff told Hoynes that "both parties are clearly trying to get things done." Check out MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker to see where the Tribe stands with their arbitration eligibles.
- The Phillies will have a tough time re-signing Cole Hamels at anything less than full market value, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, as GM Ruben Amaro has rewarded big contracts to both under-control players like Ryan Howard, and free agents such as Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins.
- Within the same piece, Amaro addressed the signing of Papelbon this offseason, saying the club regarded Pap slightly higher than the incumbent Ryan Madson, who eventually signed with the Reds for far less. “We didn’t just want any closer. The way our team is set up, we wanted the best guy, or one of the top two or three guys. We could have gotten a ‘B’ or ‘B-plus’ closer. But we wanted an ‘A.’ With (Papelbon), as good and as durable as he has been, I felt he was the right fit for us.”
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, 40 in April, said 2012 may not be his final season, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, but his deal includes a $7MM club option that will vest to $9MM if he plays in 123 games. “As long as I stay healthy and I’m having fun, I’m going to keep going. I sit here with three weeks to go before spring training and I’m not ready to say this is it.”
- Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants Bryce Harper to start the season as Washington's right fielder, hears Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That seems like an aggressive approach to me, but it would create quite a bit of buzz in Washington -- and in baseball, in general.
A few odds and ends to pass along as Nolan Ryan (65) and Ernie Banks (81) celebrate birthdays. Jackie Robinson would have turned 93 today ...
- The Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten ownership group could be the leader to purchase the Dodgers, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, as that group will likely procure the financial backing of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. Soon-Shiong is a close friend of Johnson's and once purchased Magic's minority stake in the Lakers.
- The Rangers and Nelson Cruz are working on avoiding an arbitration hearing, the outfielder tells Enrique Rojas of ESPN.com. Cruz also said that while the sides are negotiating for a one-year agreement, they are leaving open the door to a multiyear pact.
- Yoenis Cespedes will likely visit the Marlins within the next week, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Miami has long been considered among the leaders to sign the 27-year-old outfielder who recently defected from Cuban, although the the Cubs and other teams "remain deeply involved," per Rosenthal.
6:09pm: The Padres and right-hander Dustin Moseley have avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract, the team announced.
Moseley, 30, spent time with the Angels and Yankees before joining the Friars in 2011. The swing man was used exclusively as a starter last season, posting a career-best 3.30 ERA over 120 innings before being lost to season-ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in August.
The Yankees non-tendered Moseley after the 2010 campaign, facilitating his move to San Diego, and it was rumored he may get the same treatment from the Padres, but he'll once again call PETCO Park his home ballpark in 2012.
All of the Padres' arbitration eligible players are now under contract for 2012.
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A few notes to share coming out of the American League East ...
- An arbitration hearing appears likely for the Red Sox and David Ortiz, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. When the sides exchanged salary proposals earlier this month, the Red Sox offered $12.65MM, while Ortiz and his representatives at SFX request $16.5MM, so a pretty sizable gap exists. The 36-year-old DH posted a sharp .309/.398/.554 line and slugged 29 homers in 2011.
- The Korean Baseball Organization is displeased by the Orioles' signing of 17-year-old lefty Seong-Min Kim to a minor league deal because of his age and is threatening to petition Major League Baseball, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Orioles GM Dan Duquette said he doesn't understand the complaint, as Kim and his family were both in favor of the move, and he is closer to 18 than to 17.
- Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said during an appearance on MLB Network's Intentional Talk that he has no regrets about the club-friendly extension he signed in April 2008, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. "I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted doing it. I can look at myself in the mirror and say that I made the right decision. You never know, who knows, one or two years in I might’ve hurt myself and not been the player that I am today." The six-year deal includes three club options for what would have been free-agent years for Longoria. It could be worth as much as $45MM and will expire after Longo's age-29 season.
We'll keep track of today's minor league transactions right here ...
- Dirk Hayhurst, formerly of the Padres and Blue Jays, announced that he'll be pitching in an Italian league in 2012 (Twitter links). The right-hander, also an author, has become something of a cult hero the past couple years as he's documented his experiences as a career minor leaguer. Hayhurst spent 2011 in the Rays organization.
- The Dodgers signed outfielder Chris Pettit to a minor league contract, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Petit, a 27-year-old right-handed hitter, appeared in one game with the Angels in 2011 and 10 in 2009.
The Astros have signed Livan Hernandez to a minor league deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The Praver/Shapiro client would provide Houston with rotation depth if he makes the team out of Spring Training.
Hernandez posted a 4.47 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 42.4% ground ball rate in 175 1/3 innings for the 2011 Nationals. The 36-year-old has averaged 216 innings and a 4.44 ERA since 1998, his first full season as a big league starter, and has completed at least 175 innings in each of the past 14 seasons. He earned $1.25MM in 2011, but didn't obtain guaranteed money from the Astros.
4:00pm: The Yankees announced that they have hired Hendry as a special assignment scout.
11:57am: The Yankees have hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assistant, ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine reports. The Cubs dismissed Hendry in August, before hiring Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
The Cubs won three division titles under Hendry (2003, '07, '08), but finished 71-91 in 2011 despite an Opening Day payroll of roughly $134MM. Overall, Chicago posted a 749-748 record under Hendry from 2002-11. MLBTR's Transaction Tracker details his moves, from the $91.5MM extension for Carlos Zambrano to his bargain signing of Kerry Wood last offseason.
Current D'Backs GM Kevin Towers worked for the Yankees after his tenure in San Diego ended, so this isn't the first time Brian Cashman has asked a former counterpart to join his baseball operations team. Hendry obtained a multiyear deal from the Yankees.
- Yahoo's Steve Henson offers a behind-the-scenes look at the path Derrick Hall took on his recovery from prostate cancer. The D'Backs president and CEO has a knack for connecting with fans and team employees, as Henson explains in this highly recommended piece.
- Also within the piece, Henson explains that Hall is on MLB's short list of candidates to replace Bud Selig when he retires. Several bidders for the Dodgers have approached Hall about becoming their CEO, so the 43-year-old is clearly in high demand.
- Team payroll is up to $80MM, though they had anticipated spending $65-70MM, Henson writes. The D'Backs expect additional revenues to stream in via their advertising partnerships.
- GM Kevin Towers says the team is “quite a ways apart” in extension talks with Montero, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. The gap exists in terms of dollars, rather than years. Montero hopes to conclude extension talks by late March, Piecoro tweets.