The teams that still have money to spend are starting to throw bait at the last big fish in the free-agent pool.
Here are the latest developments on free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder and his suitors:
• New Cubs manager Dale Sveum likes Fielder and they have a good, working relationship. Before moving to Chicago, Sveum was the Milwaukee hitting coach, where he helped tutor the Brewers slugger.
• The Cubs, according to ESPN.com, are "stepping up their pursuit of Fielder."
• The price for the 27-year-old has gone up, thanks to Albert Pujols' 10-year, $254-million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Fielder and his agent, Scott Boros, are said to be targeting a similar contract. Are the Cubs willing to go that high?
• Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com also thinks the Cubs are in the running for Fielder, pegging the odds at 4-1 of a Prince in the Windy City. But Heyman picks the Texas Rangers as the favourites at 3-1, thanks to their strong lineup and hitters park. He pegs the Seattle Mariners at 5-1, the Toronto Blue Jays at 8-1 and, rounding out the top five, the Washington Nationals at 12-1.
MLB FOCUSES ON INTERNATIONALS
A committee has been appointed to come up with a better system for signing international players.
The chief issue is to determine a method for drafting internationals. Another is how to deal with players who leave Cuba.
At the moment, only players who attend school in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada are subject to baseball's amateur draft. All other players are treated as free agents, and they can command much more money dealing with all 30 teams rather than with just one.
WILLINGHAM A TWIN
The Minnesota Twins added some power to their lineup Thursday by signing free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, as expected, to a three-year deal worth $21 million.
Willingham, 32, hit just .246 last season for the Oakland Athletics but set career highs in home runs (29) and RBI (98).
The deal includes an extra $1 million in the third year if Willingham gets 525 plate appearances in the second year, ESPN.com reported.
It is now unlikely the Twins will retain their own free agent outfielders, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel.
Willingham is expected to join speedsters Denard Span and Ben Revere in the Twins outfield.
Right-handed hitting Willingham, a career .262 hitter who spent two seasons with the Washington Nationals after playing his first five MLB seasons with the Florida Marlins, has topped 20 home runs four times.
HOLLAND SOUGHT FOR LONG HAUL
Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers reportedly are discussing a five-year contract that would cover his three arbitration years and the first two years of free agency.
The deal would be similar to the one drawn up for second baseman Ian Kinsler in 2008.
Holland, 25, went 16-5 with a 3.95 earned-run average in 198 innings last season, including a 9-1 mark and a 3.06 ERA after the all-star break. He then went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in six playoff games.
The Philadelphia Phillies have confirmed the signing of pitcher Dontrelle Willis to a one-year contract ... The New York Mets have signed Chuck James to a minor-league contract ... The Texas Rangers have signed pitcher Fabio Castillo and catcher Chris Robinson to minor-league contracts ... The 30 owners unanimously ratified the new five-year basic agreement with the players. The union had passed the new deal two weeks ago ... Derek Falvey and David Stearns have been hired to work together to direct the Cleveland Indians baseball operations. Falvey will focus on player personnel and acquisitions, and Stearns will be more involved with player contracts.