Mariners, Reds, Blue Jays and Mets among teams interested in Jeff Francis

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According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, free agent left-hander Jeff Francis is beginning to attract more interest from teams in the market for a starting pitcher. The Mariners, Reds, Blue Jays and Mets are among the teams believed to be in the mix.

Francis, who turned 31 earlier this month, went 6-16 with the Royals last season while posting a 4.82 ERA and 91/39 K/BB ratio over 183 innings.

Francis has never thrown particularly hard to begin with, but after averaging 87.1 mph on his fastball in 2010 following shoulder surgery, he averaged a career-low 84.7 mph last season. Among qualified starters, only R.A. Dickey and Livan Hernandez had less velocity on their fastball in 2011. On the bright side, Francis averaged 1.9 BB/9 and induced ground balls 47 percent of the time for the second straight season. He could do well as a fifth starter in the right environment.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.