gutierrez getty

Franklin Gutierrez hit .349 in the Venezuelan Winter League

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Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez appeared in only 40 games last season due to head and heel injuries, and he batted just .260/.309/.420 when he wasn’t on the disabled list. But there may be reason for a hint of optimism about what’s ahead in 2013.

Gutierrez is — first and foremost — healthy. He hasn’t experienced any sort of concussion-related symptoms over the past several months and his plantar fasciitis is seemingly under control. Then there’s his promising performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, which recently wrapped up its regular season schedule.

According to beat writer Greg Johns of MLB.com, the 29-year-old hit .349/.411/.523 with three homers, six doubles and 19 RBI in 22 games for Leones del Caracas while playing his usual brand of elite-level outfield defense. He was 8-for-15 in his final three games and finished with a total of 13 runs scored.

If Gutierrez proves to be a reliable regular this year in Seattle, the M’s can shift Michael Saunders to right field. Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay will presumably share left field, with Casper Wells providing overall depth.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.