UPDATE: Rays negotiating with free agent Josh Willingham

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4:10 p.m. EDT update: Crasnick is still on the Willingham beat; he reports that the Rays are making a “serious run” at the free agent. He’d presumably replace Johnny Damon as their primary designated hitter, though they could try turning him into a first baseman, and he’d likely bat cleanup behind Evan Longoria in the order.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal adds that the nothing is close, but that the Rays are one of the three or four finalists for Willingham.

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that nine teams have expressed interest in free agent Josh Willingham, including the Red Sox, Reds, Indians and Twins.

Willingham, who turns in 33 in February, was seeking a three-year deal at last check. He set career highs with 29 homers and 98 RBI in what was likely his lone season with the A’s in 2011, but his .810 OPS was actually his worst mark in his six years as a regular.

Willingham’s history of back problems make him a risk on a long-term deal, but he does have a more potent bat than fellow free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. A three-year deal worth about $8 million per season is realistic. He’d probably be the top candidate to step in as Boston’s primary designated hitter if David Ortiz left. The Reds would use him in left field, while the Indians could try him as a first baseman. Minnesota likely views him as a fallback option in case Cuddyer exits.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.