Nelson Cruz

Report: The Mariners are still interested in Nelson Cruz

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After shocking the baseball world by agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million contract with second baseman Robinson Cano last week, the Mariners reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Corey Hart today while picking up Logan Morrison in a trade with the Marlins. However, they aren’t done attempting to remake their offense.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Mariners are still interested in signing free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, though it sounds like he still has some other possibilities to choose from:

Even after signing Robinson Cano and bringing Hart and Morrison into the fold, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik doesn’t appear ready to close the door on upgrades to an offense that ranked 12th in the American League with 624 runs scored. The Mariners have been ardent Cruz pursuers from the start of the winter, and one baseball source said they’ll continue to be in the mix for him.

Cruz has a few other potential landing sites. The Texas Rangers would like to bring him back on a two- or three-year deal, and the Baltimore Orioles could use an impact bat in left field. ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark has also speculated that the Kansas City Royals could jump into the fray if they trade Billy Butler for pitching. But that’s a complicated, long-shot scenario at best.

Rumors of Cruz turning down a five-year, $75 million offer from the Mariners haven’t been confirmed, but Crasnick hears that many at the Winter Meetings believe he’ll ultimately land a contract close to the four-year, $60 million deal the Mets gave to Curtis Granderson. The 33-year-old turned down a qualifying offer from the Rangers in order to test free agency, so teams would have to give up a draft pick in order to sign him. A return to Texas could happen if Shin-Soo Choo (and Scott Boras) remains firm about his lofty asking price.

Cruz hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI over 109 games this past season and served a 50-game PED suspension for his ties to Biogenesis.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.