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Cubs sign Johnson, 2 pitchers
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/12/2008 6:07 PM | Updated: 12/12/2008 10:30 PM

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The Cubs continued shaping their roster Friday. They signed right-handed reliever Chad Gaudin to a one-year contract worth $2 million, lefty reliever Neal Cotts to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million and outfielder Reed Johnson to a one-year, $3 million deal. All had been eligible for salary arbitration.

The team also said it would offer contracts to the rest of their arbitration-eligible players: relievers Kevin Gregg and Michael Wuertz, and backup infielder Ronny Cedeno.

Gaudin came to the Cubs in the July trade with Oakland that also brought starting pitcher Rich Harden to Chicago. In 24 games, Gaudin went 4-2 with a 6.26 ERA before a mysterious back ailment sidelined him late in the season and kept him off the playoff roster.

"We're glad to have Chad back," said general manager Jim Hendry. "He pitched terrific for us for the first month after the trade. He ended up being a big piece of the trade. He wasn't as effective after the injury. It was like a hitter trying to come back from a strained oblique. When he's on, he's really effective and can pitch in the eighth inning for you."

Cotts is the main lefty in the bullpen, especially if the Cubs can trade starter Jason Marquis and move left-hander Sean Marshall into the rotation. Cotts came back from the minors this year to go 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA for the Cubs, who were pleased with the way he threw the ball, especially late in the season.

The Cubs don't anticipate going to arbitration with any of their players. By offering each a contract, Hendry also has an inventory from which to trade, if any deals present themselves. Any player not offered a contract becomes a free agent, and the market looked ripe for flooding as several teams looked poised not to tender contracts to many players. Expect the Cubs to peruse that list beginning today.

Still working: Jim Hendry returned late Thursday from the winter meetings in Las Vegas and got to work early Friday.

Hendry's main free-agent target remains switch-hitting outfielder Milton Bradley, late of the Texas Rangers. Raul Ibanez agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Phillies, but even with that, Bradley has been the Cubs' top target for several weeks, and Hendry had talks with his reps in Las Vegas.

The Cubs are actively shopping Jason Marquis, but they discounted a rumor that had Marquis going to the Mets for lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis, a onetime White Sox reliever. Shoeneweis wound up being traded to Arizona.

Moving Marquis would free up money for Bradley. The Cubs no doubt will take on some of Marquis' $9.875 million salary for next year. Marquis was the Cubs' fifth starter, but the Cubs feel he can be a fourth or even a third starter for many teams.

He was 11-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 29 games (28 starts) this year and has been healthy most of his career. Although there are many other stats that might be better than wins in evaluating a starting pitcher, the Cubs point out Marquis has 65 wins over the past five years between the Cubs and Cardinals.