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Mark Cuban out of the running for Dodgers; Joe Torre and Magic Johnson among those still in

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UPDATE: The Steve Garvey-Orel Hershiser group was not selected to advance in the bidding process, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

As for the actual bid amounts, well, let’s just say that Frank McCourt is going to walk away from this process filthy, stinkin’ rich. Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that bidding on the Dodgers is now north of $1.2 billion and counting. Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that McCourt already has one bid in the range of $1.5 billion and speculates that the bidding may jump to $2 billion before this is all over. Either way, the final price tag is expected to blow away the previous record of $845 million when the Ricketts family bought the Cubs from the Tribune Company in 2009.

10:44 PM, Friday: Well, we can cross two big names off the list. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times has learned that the groups led by Mark Cuban and former agent Dennis Gilbert didn’t make it to the second round of the bidding process. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is still in.

Meanwhile, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com hears that Peter O’Malley’s group and the group led by Stanley Gold (who runs the investment firm for the family of the late Roy Disney) have also advanced. O’Malley has reportedly discussed joining forces with Gold’s group.

9:30 PM, Friday: We learned earlier this week that the Dodgers received more than 10 opening bids in advance of Monday’s deadline from those interested in buying the team from Frank McCourt. The opening bids aren’t binding and new bidders could still emerge in the days to come, but we have some early word on who made it through to the next round.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that at least eight groups have advanced, including the Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten group, the Joe Torre/Rick Caruso group and the group headed by hedge fund manager Steven Cohen. No word on any others, but it’s safe to say most of the big names are sticking around.

The Dodgers released a statement a little while ago confirming that “the round of preliminary bidding has been completed successfully.” However, they didn’t say who advanced or provide a timeline for the next step.

The embattled McCourt faces an April 30 deadline to sell the team and has agreed to identify the winning bidder by April 1. The sale is expected to fetch an MLB record price tag in excess of $1 billion.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.