Mariners could part with Nick Franklin and other young talent to bolster roster

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If you thought the Mariners were going to call it an off-season after signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract, think again. They’re only just getting started. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Mariners could use some of their young talent, such as middle infielder Nick Franklin, to bolster the roster. Franklin, who turns 23 on March 2, got his first taste of the big leagues last season, posting a .686 OPS in 412 plate appearances. He made Baseball America’s top-100 prospects list going into the 2011 and ’13 seasons.

Rays starter David Price is the Mariners’ top priority, Heyman writes. Price is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and can become a free agent after the 2015 season. He is due for a raise over last season’s $10.1 million salary, so the small-market Rays are interested in the salary relief that trading him would bring, similar to when they sent James Shields to the Royals last off-season. However, reports indicate that the Rays would want Taijuan Walker in any deal that sends Price to the Mariners.

In the same tweet, Heyman suggests the Mariners are looking for a “big-time” outfielder, citing free agents Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, and trade targets Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Given that the Mariners only have to deal with two arbitration-eligible players, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders, and currently have $36.5 million on the books for 2014, they still have plenty of room before matching last season’s Opening Day payroll of $84 million. It’s conceivable that they could pull the trigger on deals for both an outfielder and a top-tier starter.

Report: Chris Tillman will decide on a team this week

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Free agent right-hander Chris Tillman is narrowing his pool of potential suitors, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Returning to the Orioles is one option, of course, but Heyman also mentions another two undisclosed teams who are still in the running. An earlier report from Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests that as many as four teams may be in the mix; either way, a final decision is expected by Monday.

Tillman, 29, has spent the entirety of his major league career in Baltimore. After posting career-high numbers in 2016, his progress was derailed during an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, during which he missed nearly six weeks on the disabled list with recurring right shoulder inflammation. He finished the season with a bloated 7.84 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 4.9 SO/9 over 93 innings.

While the mystery teams have yet to reveal themselves, the Blue Jays, Twins and Tigers have all expressed interest in the veteran right-hander this offseason. Both the Blue Jays and Twins have made big moves to bolster their rotations over the last few days, with the additions of Jaime Garcia and Jake Odorizzi, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Tillman is out of reach, however — if his price is right, he could provide some much-needed depth for pitching staffs that finished 15th and 22nd in the league last year.