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.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.