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.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.