It was hola to one old friend and sayonara to another today, as the Cubs signed minor league FA INF Scott Moore to a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training 2011, and placed Micah Hoffpauir on Outright Release Waivers so that he can sign a contract with the Nippon Ham Fighters (NPB Pacific League) of Sapporo, Japan, where he will be playing on the same team as Japan's #1 pitcher, RHP Yu Darvish.
With Hoffpauir being released, the Cubs now have 35 players on their MLB Reserve List (five slots open) as they continue to consider which players they will add to the 40-man roster by the 11/20 pre-Rule 5 Draft roster-filing deadline.
Since Hoffpauir is not a free-agent and is still under contract to the Cubs, a cash payment (exact amount TBD, but it could be several hundred thousand dollars) will be made to the Cubs from the Ham Fighters once Hoffpauir clears waivers on Friday and can officially sign with his new club.
I guess it's pretty obvious that Hoff will have to learn the ancient art of fighting hams, but just speaking from personal experience, I think he will find that if he approaches the ham from a 45 degree angle with a knife and fork in hand, that he will usually be able to make the cut, bite, and swallow necessary to successfully pound it down in one sitting. (At least we probably know what Hoff's family and friends should expect for Christmas this year).
Hoff-Pauir! signed with the Cubs after being selected in the 13th round of the 2002 draft out of Lamar U. in Texas. He spent six rather uneventful seasons in the Cubs farm systyem (including four seasons at AAA Iowa), before finally having a break-out year in 2008 when he hit 362/393/752 with 25 HR and 100 RBI in just 71 games (less than half a AAA season). He got occasional opportunities for MLB playing time with the Cubs 2008-10, hitting 251/312/421 with 12 HR & 48 RBI and 23 doubles in 162 big league games (exactly equivalent to one full MLB season), including a memorable five-hit game (including two HR) in September 2008 at Shea Stadium in New York. But the 30-year old Texan was unable to hit the ground running and grab the 1B job the last two months of the 2010 season after Derrek Lee was traded to Atlanta, hitting just 173/246/231 with no HR in 57 PA (24 games). Besides hitting 133 HR in 874 pro games, Hoffpauir is a very good defensive 1st baseman, winning a Rawlings AAA Gold Glove while at Iowa in 2007.
A left-handed hitter with HR power who can play 1B-2B-3B-LF plus SS in a pinch, Scott Moore comes back to the Cubs after spending the past three-plus seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization, where he bounced back-and-forth between AAA and MLB. In 80 MLB games (202 PA) over the course of four seasons, Moore has hit a combined 223/270/370 with seven HR. Although he has certainly not had the same degree of success at the big league level, Moore would appear to profile at least as a similar type of player as Jeff Baker.
A 1st round draft pick (8th overall) of the Detroit Tigers in 2002 out of Cypress HS in California (the same HS that produced current Cubs 3B prospect Josh Vitters), Moore was originally acquired by the Cubs from the Tigers along with RHP Roberto Novoa and OF Bo Flowers for RHP Kyle Farnsworth in February 2005, and he would spend the next three seasons in the Cubs system, hitting 61 HR (combined) in 363 minor league games. Rated one of the Cubs "Top 10 Prospects" in 2007, Moore was sent to Baltimore along with RHPs Rocky Cherry and Jake Renshaw in a trade for veteran RHP Steve Trachsel in August of that season. While he has mostly struggled in his previous big league opportunities, keep in mind he is still only 27 years old (in fact today is his 27th birthday), and with a solid Spring Training, Moore has a chance to win a spot on the Cubs 2011 Opening Day 25-man roster. And if he doesn't make the cut, his versatility should come in handy at AAA Iowa, and his MLB experience could make him the natural replacement call-up if anything bad happens to a Cubs infielder next season.