Mariners “continue to target” free agent Josh Hamilton

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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides the following scoop:

The Seattle Mariners, searching for offense, continue to target slugger Josh Hamilton.

The Mariners probably aren’t prepared to meet Hamilton’s request for a seven-year deal, but they seem to have emerged as the likeliest alternative to the incumbent Rangers by virtue of their perceived willingness to go longer than most. Seattle may be amenable to five years, or perhaps even six, though that is fairly speculative and like all the interested teams they have a wariness about going long for Hamilton.

Heyman notes on Twitter that the Yankees are not involved “at this point” and would only consider making an offer to Hamilton if his asking price drops significantly. “Not happening,” Heyman concludes.

The Red Sox have been linked and even met with Hamilton at the Winter Meetings last week in Nashville, Tennessee. But they’ve already committed a total of $78 million to Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.

So it sounds like it will come down to Seattle and Texas, though the Rangers still have their sights set on a trade for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton. Perhaps a “mystery team” is waiting in the weeds.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.