Mariners nearing deal with Chris Iannetta

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This hot stove is already heating up.

Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the Mariners are nearing a contract agreement with free agent catcher Chris Iannetta. The club has also been tied this week to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Iannetta carries a poor reputation defensively and he batted just .188/.293/.335 for the Angels in 2015, but the 32-year-old has mashed left-handed pitching in the past and would give Seattle an alternative to former top prospect Mike Zunino, who has struggled to find his footing in the major leagues.

The big fish in this year’s free agent market for catchers is Matt Wieters, but the lower-tier guys are not waiting for that domino to fall. A.J. Pierzynski just re-upped with the Braves on a one-year deal and Saltalamacchia appears close to finding a new home. John Ryan Murphy was traded from the Yankees to the Twins on Monday in exchange for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.