Mariners have “talked to the Royals” about Billy Butler

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Last week the Mariners were said to be interested in Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd and now their search for a right-handed hitter apparently includes Royals designated hitter Billy Butler.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Mariners have “talked to the Royals about Butler,” who has struggled this season by posting career-lows in batting average (.273) and slugging percentage (.355) while managing just three home runs in 379 plate appearances.

Butler is still just 28 years old and has a lengthy track record of good hitting, although he never quite took the next step from very good young hitter to star-caliber hitter. He posted an OPS between .820 and .885 each season from 2009 to 2012, and then it dropped to .787 last year before plummeting to .679 this season.

He’s making $8 million this season with a $12.5 million team option or $1 million buyout for 2015, and based on his production for the past season-and-a-half he wouldn’t be worth that money next year. It’s also worth noting that the Royals have reportedly targeted Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes as a potential trade target, which might lend credence to Butler being available.

Seattle has used 13 different players in the DH spot through 95 games, with Corey Hart leading the way with 42 starts. And they’ve combined to hit .197 with eight homers and a .567 OPS, so even if Butler doesn’t turn things around in the second half he’d still provide a big upgrade.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.