UPDATE: Rays negotiating with free agent Josh Willingham

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4:10 p.m. EDT update: Crasnick is still on the Willingham beat; he reports that the Rays are making a “serious run” at the free agent. He’d presumably replace Johnny Damon as their primary designated hitter, though they could try turning him into a first baseman, and he’d likely bat cleanup behind Evan Longoria in the order.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal adds that the nothing is close, but that the Rays are one of the three or four finalists for Willingham.

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that nine teams have expressed interest in free agent Josh Willingham, including the Red Sox, Reds, Indians and Twins.

Willingham, who turns in 33 in February, was seeking a three-year deal at last check. He set career highs with 29 homers and 98 RBI in what was likely his lone season with the A’s in 2011, but his .810 OPS was actually his worst mark in his six years as a regular.

Willingham’s history of back problems make him a risk on a long-term deal, but he does have a more potent bat than fellow free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. A three-year deal worth about $8 million per season is realistic. He’d probably be the top candidate to step in as Boston’s primary designated hitter if David Ortiz left. The Reds would use him in left field, while the Indians could try him as a first baseman. Minnesota likely views him as a fallback option in case Cuddyer exits.

Giants sign Austin Jackson to two-year, $6 million contract

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The Giants announced on Monday night the signing of outfielder Austin Jackson. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, it’s a two-year, $6 million deal with performance incentives that allow Jackson to earn up to an additional $2.5 million for a total of $8.5 million.

Jackson, who soon turns 31 years old, spent last season with the Indians. In 318 plate appearances, he hit .318/.387/.482 with seven home runs, 35 RBI, and 46 runs scored.

The Giants have been on the hunt for a center fielder and Jackson addresses that need relatively cheaply. Jackson will join Hunter Pence and newcomer Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.