Rumor roundup: Mariners interested in Aoki

Cubs remain in the hunt for versatile Zobrist

Rumor roundup: Mariners interested in Aoki

There has been plenty of focus on the deep pool of starting pitchers available in free agency this offseason, and for good reason, but that's not the only market worth monitoring moving forward.

Front offices across Major League Baseball are also working with a long list of free-agent position players, too. Here's a look at some notable rumblings on the Hot Stove from Monday night:

Hot Stove Tracker

Mariners interested in Aoki
The Mariners, under new general manager Jerry Dipoto, have been among the busiest clubs in recent weeks, and they are rumored to have a new target.

• Predictions for top free agents, trade targets

Seattle has shown interest in free-agent outfielder Nori Aoki, a source told MLB.com, following a report in the Tacoma News Tribune.

"At this point, there appears to be real interest [in Aoki] from the Mariners," an unnamed source told the newspaper. "Whether that leads to a deal is anybody's guess."

Aoki, 33, has been a consistent producer over four seasons in the Majors following an eight-year career in Japan. He has a lifetime .287 batting average and .353 on-base percentage with the Brewers, Royals and Giants.

The Mariners were previously linked to Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but trade talks between the two clubs are said to have stalled.

Cubs in play for Zobrist
While the Mets are rumored to have made free-agent utility man Ben Zobrist their top target, the Cubs remain in play for the veteran's services, according to an ESPN.com report citing baseball sources.

Ben Zobrist's market heats up

Zobrist, who helped guide the Royals to a World Series title this season, is said to be seeking a four-year deal. However, the Mets are unlikely to offer Zobrist a four-year contract, per a different ESPN.com report. It's unclear where the Cubs and other interested clubs are going to draw the line in terms of contract length in negotiations with Zobrist's camp.

The Braves, Giants and Nationals are also among the teams that have already shown interest in Zobrist this offseason.

Cruz likely to be moved
The Cardinals signed free-agent catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year deal Monday, likely bringing an end to Tony Cruz's tenure as Yadier Molina's backup in St. Louis.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he will pursue possible trade opportunities for Cruz this week, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Cruz is eligible for salary arbitration, but is likely to be non-tendered and become a free agent if Mozeliak can't swing a deal before Wednesday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline for clubs to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

In five seasons as the Cardinals' backup catcher, Cruz produced a .220/.262/.310 slash line with five homers and 58 RBIs over 633 plate appearances.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.