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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.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.