As spring opens, Mariners, Orioles still possible for Kendrys Morales

Free agent first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales would appear to have at least two possibilities as spring training opens, but it isn't certain how likely a deal will happen. At least the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles are believed to be in contact with Morales.

While Morales could fill needs for either team -- the Orioles could use a DH, the Mariners need someone to bat behind $240 million import Robinson Cano  -- it remains uncertain how serious either team is because both have other needs as well. The Mariners have remained in contact, and they like Morales very much from his season there, so perhaps they'd be the better bet. Morales is especially seen as a strong clubhouse influence.

Seattle also has been in touch with another free-agent hitter, Nelson Cruz , for weeks, but the lack of deal with him at this point may suggest the team actually prefers Morales. Mariners people liked Morales’ production at Safeco Field (23 homers, 80 RBI) and his influence in the clubhouse. The issue there could be room, as Justin Smoak was just brought back on a one-year deal, joining Corey Hart and Logan Morrison as hitters and first-base candidates; outfield would appear to be a greater need.

However, at last some Mariners people are reluctant to dive into a deal for Cruz, citing the switch from Texas' hitter-friendly park and a PED suspension. Cruz's lack of a market coming off a superb first two-thirds of a season (prior to the Biogenesis-related suspension) is nothing short of confounding. Is it possible Cruz could go back to his old team, as well?

The Mariners also have been interested in adding a No. 3 starter even before spring scrapes to star starter Hisashi Iwakuma (finger) and young pitching phenom Taijuan Walker cropped up. So a free agent starter such as Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez makes sense for them, as well.

As for the Orioles, they clearly are considering Morales while working on another priority -- enhancing their rotation. The draft choice attached to Morales could be the hold-up for Baltimore, though if it adds the pitcher, too, Morales would only cost a second-rounder. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently suggested it's possible team owner Peter Angelos isn't giving the go-ahead for funds for Morales.

Though the Pirates seemingly spent most of their time surveying the trade market for a first baseman, talking to the Rangers about Mitch Moreland , the Mets about Ike Davis and the Blue Jays about Adam Lind , they are believed to have at least considered Morales, as well. Like the Orioles, they have an unprotected first-round pick following their stellar season in 2013; but they also have a question at first base.

While a few have suggested they prefer Morales as a DH, some say he is actually more than decent at first. He may have mostly performed the DH role last year to accommodate the younger Smoak, who may have needed to play first base, though Morales did play 31 games at first base.

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