Marlins make offer to Branyan?
ESPN.com reported that the Marlins have offered free-agent slugger Russell Branyan a one-year contract "with a low base and lots of incentives." But later in the day, two sources told the Miami Herald that the Marlins have not made Branyan an offer but are interested in the first baseman.
If the ESPN report is true, those incentives probably hinge on games played, considering the Marlins were looking at a Spring Training competition of Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison for the starting job at first base. Branyan would be a welcomed lefty power hitter on a Marlins lineup that leans heavily towards the right side in the middle of the order -- with Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla and Cody Ross.
With the Mariners in 2009, Branyan set career highs in home runs (31) and RBIs (76). His lifetime batting average (.234) and on-base percentage (.331) are low, but Branyan would give the Marlins flexibility because of his ability to also play left field and third base. Branyan could also be the lefty hitter off the bench the Marlins still need, though ESPN.com wrote that he's "still looking for an opportunity that would offer him more assurance of playing time and more guaranteed money." But that hasn't really been there for Branyan, even though his '09 home-run total leads remaining free agents.
Dodgers add Amezaga, Weaver
The Dodgers agreed to terms on a Minor League deal with Alfredo Amezaga according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, and also added Jeff Weaver by signing him to a Minor League deal worth $800,000.
Amezaga is expected to compete for a role as the club's utlityman in Spring Training, as he has played seven positions during his Major League career and is a .251 hitter. Meanwhile, Weaver, who was a surprise last season with the Dodgers when he posted a 3.65 ERA in 28 appearances, is expected to compete for a role as a long reliever.
Gregg close to signing with Jays?
FoxSports.com is reporting that free-agent reliever Kevin Gregg is closing in on an agreement with the Blue Jays, who would give the 31-year-old right-hander his best shot at closing this season. The Padres, Marlins and Rockies had all popped up in rumors for Gregg recently, but he wasn't projected to be anything more than a setup man for any of those clubs -- and perhaps even less in San Diego. Gregg's agent, Dan Horwits, told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that the Blue Jays are one of three clubs Gregg is deciding between, with the Rockies also believed to be a strong suitor. Toronto currently has a wide-open ninth-inning spot, and it would come down to two less-seasoned closers -- Scott Downs or Jason Frasor -- if it doesn't sign somebody.
Tigers confident about reaching deal with ace
The Tigers are "increasingly optimistic" they can sign Justin Verlander to a long-term deal modeled after Felix Hernandez's five-year, $78 million extension with the Mariners, an unnamed Major League source told FoxSports.com. Yahoo! Sports reported on Friday that Detroit started negotiations with Verlander on a long-term deal, but added that the 26-year-old right-hander seeks a sixth year guaranteed. But FoxSports.com believes that "it's also possible" the sides could agree on a five-year deal with a guarantee of more than Hernandez's $78 million total value. Verlander, 65-43 with a 3.92 ERA in his five-year career, is currently set to go to an arbitration hearing after he submitted a figure of $9.5 million and his club countered with $6.9 million. But that may not be necessary.
Mariners have a shot at O-Dog?
The Mariners can't swing another big-name acquisition in this busy offseason, can they? Perhaps not, but FoxSports.com reported that the Mariners remain "a long-shot candidate" to sign free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. Seattle currently has Jose Lopez as its second baseman, so a Hudson acquisition would require Lopez to be moved to either first base -- where new arrival Casey Kotchman is slated to be the starter -- or another team. The Nationals still look like the leading candidate for the two-time Gold Glover's services, but MLB.com's Bill Ladson hears money is holding up a potential deal.
Benson drawing interest
Free-agent pitcher Kris Benson has only appeared in eight Major League games since the 2006 season, but he has his share of potential suitors. According to a FoxSports.com report, the 35-year-old right-hander is being monitored by the D-backs, Cubs, Reds and Nationals, with the Dodgers being a more remote possibility. Benson's agent, Gregg Clifton, told the Web site he's encouraged by the fact his client -- haunted by arm injuries the past three years -- has been throwing his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup in bullpen sessions. Benson, 69-74 with a 4.41 ERA in eight seasons in the big leagues, made a combined 20 appearances with the Rangers' Major and Minor League clubs in 2009 because of elbow problems.
Slew of free agents head to camp
As part of a renegade idea to give players who wish to extend their professional baseball careers a chance to showcase their skills in front of a full slate of big league clubs in one sitting, former big league outfielder Rob Ducey has put together a three-day Professional Free Agent Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla., that runs Tuesday-Thursday. The 20-player roster for the inaugural PFAS includes Tim Raines Jr., Tim Battle, Pete LaForest and Nick Bierbrodt.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.