willingham getty

Pirates interested in A’s outfielder Josh Willingham

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If the Pirates are going to maintain their position near the top of the National League Central standings down the stretch, most would agree that they’ll probably need to make a couple of notable additions before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Well, good news. That hunt for an injection of talent has already begun in Pittsburgh.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the surprising 48-44 Pirates have contacted the Oakland front office about corner outfielder Josh Willingham.

Willingham, an eight-year major league veteran, has posted an unremarkable .247/.322/.439 batting line in 286 plate appearances this season for the A’s. But he hit 16 home runs alongside an .848 OPS in 2010 for the Nationals and slugged 24 dingers in 2009.

The 32-year-old would join a Pirates outfield rotation that’s been without Jose Tabata (quad) since late June and short on consistent production outside of All-Star Andrew McCutchen and a hot start from 25-year-old Alex Presley. Garrett Jones has a .749 OPS.

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)
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)
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.