Olney: Mariners appear destined to sign a big-name starting pitcher

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We’ve heard all sorts of talk about the Mariners attempting to upgrade their offense this winter, with names like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz in the conversation, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that they might be better-positioned to land one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market:

If the Mariners are truly ready to splurge on free agents, they’d probably have an easier time convincing pitchers to come to Seattle than hitters. While moving in the fences at Safeco Field resulted in increased offense this past season, the park still played slightly pitcher-friendly and continued to limit home runs. Of course, 81 games isn’t a big sample size, but its reputation as a pitchers’ park figures to linger.

The Mariners already have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of their rotation and young right-hander Taijuan Walker looked promising during a late-season sneak preview, so their starting pitching could be pretty scary if they are able to sign one of those guys. But they’ll be losing a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games unless they are able to add a bat or two, as well.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.