UPDATE: Indians make Russell Branyan an offer

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Branyan headshot.jpgUPDATE: The Indians have reportedly made an offer to Branyan. It’s unclear at present if it’s a minor league deal or something with some real dollars attached.  Either way, I think Branyan and the Indians go well together, so here’s hoping this gets done.

7:57 A.M.: Ken Rosenthal reports that Russell Branyan — a guy who hit 31 home runs last year but hasn’t had more than a nibble this winter — is talking with the Indians, Red Sox and Rays, but that things are furthest along with Cleveland. Branyan, you may recall, came up with the Indians in the death throes of their late-90s/early 2000s run, but the team didn’t like his defense or his strikeouts, shipped him out of town and went with guys like Casey Blake and Ben Broussard instead.

That was a long time ago, though, and lately the Indians have been trying to bargain hunt for a first base/corner outfield bat, showing some interest in Jermaine Dye as recently as last week.  Each of those two have problems with the glove, but at least in Branyan’s case first base won’t be a land of experimentation like it would be for Dye. Each have question marks at the plate too. Was Dye’s first half or second half more indicative of what he might do this year? Is Branyan’s back healthy enough to where his 31 home runs last year are a reasonable expectation again?

From Branyan’s perspective, the Indians make more sense than the Red Sox or Rays because it’s fairly easy to
envision playing time in Cleveland, whereas both Boston’s and Tampa
Bay’s rosters are more crowded at the positions Branyan can play (1B, 3B,
LF).

What Cleveland actually does here probably depends upon which of the two sluggers — Dye or Branyan — comes off his unreasonable mid-winter demands.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.