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Mariners “continue to target” free agent Josh Hamilton

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides the following scoop:

The Seattle Mariners, searching for offense, continue to target slugger Josh Hamilton.

The Mariners probably aren’t prepared to meet Hamilton’s request for a seven-year deal, but they seem to have emerged as the likeliest alternative to the incumbent Rangers by virtue of their perceived willingness to go longer than most. Seattle may be amenable to five years, or perhaps even six, though that is fairly speculative and like all the interested teams they have a wariness about going long for Hamilton.

Heyman notes on Twitter that the Yankees are not involved “at this point” and would only consider making an offer to Hamilton if his asking price drops significantly. “Not happening,” Heyman concludes.

The Red Sox have been linked and even met with Hamilton at the Winter Meetings last week in Nashville, Tennessee. But they’ve already committed a total of $78 million to Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.

So it sounds like it will come down to Seattle and Texas, though the Rangers still have their sights set on a trade for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton. Perhaps a “mystery team” is waiting in the weeds.

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.