When the Mariners announced after the season that they were bringing in the fences at Safeco, the obvious reaction was that they were trying to help their chances of luring a power hitter this winter, and they have been connected to Justin Upton in trade talks and Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Adam LaRoche in free agency. However, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, it’s not all about power with the Mariners: they’re interested in Michael Bourn and are currently meeting with his agent, Scott Boras.
With B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Denard Span all filling vacancies, the market for center fielders would seem to be dwindling some, so it’d be great news for Bourn if the Mariners stayed involved. They might be his best chance of matching the five-year, $75.25 million deal that B.J. Upton got from the Braves.
If the Mariners do get Bourn, they’d likely seek to trade Franklin Gutierrez, even though he’d bring little in return after all of his injuries. He’d make the team very lefty heavy at the top of the order. The Mariners also have left-handed hitters Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, John Jaso and Michael Saunders as likely starters, and Ackley, Seager and Jaso would likely all occupy top-four spots in the lineup if the season started today.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.