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Johnson, Harden file for free agency

Cubs quintet eligible for free agency

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' Reed Johnson and Rich Harden didn't waste any time.

Johnson and Harden were among the 79 Major League players who filed for free agency on Thursday, the first day they were eligible to do so.

Johnson, Harden, John Grabow, Kevin Gregg, and Chad Fox all are potential free agents, and were simply waiting for the World Series to end to file. A player must file within 15 days after the World Series is over. The Cubs will retain exclusive negotiating rights during that 15-day period.

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Gregg and Grabow were classified as Type A free agents, which means if another team were to sign them, the Cubs would receive a first-round pick as compensation. That's the case unless the signing team is selecting from picks No. 1-15, and in that case, the Cubs would receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.

Harden was classified as a Type B free agent, and the Cubs would receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.

The Cubs only receive compensation if the player signs elsewhere before Dec. 1 or is offered arbitration and declines.

Johnson was not classified as Type A or B.

The Cubs did begin discussions with Grabow's agent before the regular season ended. The team was expected to try and re-sign the left-handed reliever, who was acquired July 30 from the Pirates, along with Tom Gorzelanny.

"I want to come back," Grabow said in early October. "[Cubs general manager Jim Hendry] knows that. It's just a matter of getting it done."

In 30 games with the Cubs, Grabow, who turned 31 on Wednesday, posted a 3.24 ERA. He appeared in a career-high 75 games and totaled a personal-best 23 holds between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The news Wednesday that Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder doesn't alter Hendry's offseason plans, nor make the team more likely to keep Harden. Both Harden and Johnson could return, but it depends on their asking price.

Johnson, 32, made $3 million last season, yet was limited to a career-low 65 games and 165 at-bats because of a fractured foot suffered July 29. He also was on the disabled list because of back spasms.

The Cubs may consider a one-year deal with Harden, 27, but were believed to be hesitant to give the right-hander a multi-year contract. Harden was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts. He will probably always have a tough time convincing teams he's healthy because of his past arm problems, but he took a step forward by posting his second 25-start season. It's the first time in his career he's totaled that many starts in back to back years.

Gregg, 31, acquired from the Marlins last Nov. 13 in a trade for Minor League pitcher Jose Ceda, lost the closer's job in mid-August to Carlos Marmol. In 72 games, Gregg finished with a 4.72 ERA and 23 saves. He was shut down on Sept. 29 because of a sore ribcage. All of Gregg's seven blown saves came on the road.

On the plus side for the right-hander is that 2010 will be his second year after arthroscopic knee surgery. He has appeared in at least 72 games in three straight seasons.

Fox, whose career has been interrupted by elbow injuries, made two appearances in May and then had to be shut down because of inflammation.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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