The deadline to tender contracts to pre-arbitration and arb-eligible players came earlier this week. Let's take a look at who the clubs in the NL Central decided to keep in the fold, with other news and notes sprinkled in for good measure:
- The Cubs opted to tender contracts to six of their seven arbitration-eligible players, with the most notable being Matt Garza and Geovany Soto. The cheese left standing alone: backup catcher Koyie Hill, who was non-tendered following a season in which he started 38 games and hit .194 overall.
- Chicago is reportedly one of several teams that has entered the bidding for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. The Cubs aren't believed to be the highest bidder, however, and at this point it seems unlikely that Darvish will be a Cub in 2012.
- Another week, another round of Prince Fielder-to-Chicago rumors: we've got reports from ESPN that the Cubs are the front-runners for Fielder, and Ken Rosenthal says the Cubs are the logical destination for the big man. But not so fast, says Nick Cafardo (grain-of-salt alert), who reports that the Cubs aren't willing to spend big.
- For the most part, Cincinnati made unsurprising moves on its arbitration-eligible players: the Reds tendered contracts to all their arb-eligible players, including Homey Bailey, Nick Masset, and Edinson Volquez.
- The only semi-surprising move was the tender to shortstop Paul Janish: with Zack Cozart expected to serve as the team's everyday shortstop in 2012, there was talk that the Reds might opt to non-tender Janish, but Cincinnati will apparently bring Janish back as a backup.
- The Reds remain in the market for starting pitching, with the latest scuttlebutt being that the team might look to swing a deal for Rays' ace James Shields.
- Congratulations are in order for Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who was named as the co-winner of the 2011 Tip O'Neill Award (given to baseball's top Canadian player), along with Brewer closer John Axford.
- The Astros had only two arbitration-eligible players this year, and they avoided arbitration with catcher Humberto Quintero, who signed a one-year, $1-million contract on Monday.
- That left left-hander J.A. Happ, who struggled through a miserable 2011 season, as the only arbitration-eligible player, and Houston, as expected, tendered Happ a contract. Happ is eligible for arbitration for the first time.
- The Astros swung a trade with the Red Sox this week, shipping Mark Melancon, who served as the team's closer in 2011 after Brandon Lyon was shelved with a shoulder injury, to Boston for infielder Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is slotted to serve as Houston's starting shortstop next season, and he says he's excited to be reunited with manager Brad Mills (who was Boston's bench coach for two years).
- Like the Reds, the Bucs decided to tender contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players: Garrett Jones, Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, and Chris Resop all will be back in Pittsburgh in 2012.
- Before the tender deadline hit, the Pirates agreed to a one-year, $1.1-million contract with reliever Jason Grilli, which will avoid arbitration for the right-hander.
- The big news for the Bucs this week was the trade that netted Pittsburgh third baseman Casey McGehee. Pirates president Frank Coonelly says that he thinks McGehee is "an excellent bounce back candidate in 2012."
- The Cardinals had four arbitration-eligible players to make decisions on: the Cards avoided arbitration with second baseman/outfielder Skip Schumaker, who signed a two-year deal just before the tender deadline; tendered contracts to pitchers Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte; and non-tendered shortstop Ryan Theriot, who will become a free agent.
- The Redbirds aren't sitting on their hands in the wake of Albert Pujols' decision to leave for California. The Cards brought back midseason acquisition Rafael Furcal on a two-year deal worth $14 million. They also added another lefty to their bullpen, signing former Philly J.C. Romero to a one-year deal.
- There might be a move or two left for St. Louis this offseason: the Cards are still rumored to be interested in free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, and are apparently vying with the Blue Jays, the Rockies, and two mystery teams (INTRIGUE!) for Beltran's services.