A’s in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler

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As first first reported by Cover Those Bases and then confirmed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s are in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler. Word is the two sides are “close” to an agreement.

There was a report last week that Butler had a three-year, $30 million offer on the table, and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers wrote that it was “widely believed” to be from the Orioles. But it appears as though the 28-year-old designated hitter is headed to Oakland.

Butler batted just .271/.323/.379 with nine home runs and 66 RBI in 151 games this past season for the Royals and Kansas City’s front office then declined a $12.5 million club option on him in early November. But he has been a very productive hitter in the past, managing a stellar .306/.371/.483 slash line between 2009-2012.

The Athletics badly need a jolt of offense for 2015 and Butler is a decent bounceback candidate.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.