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Seattle Mariners said to be out front in race to sign Melky Cabrera

Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

SAN DIEGO –  Melky to the Seattle Mariners?

Not yet.

While everything points to the Mariners emerging as a clear favorite to sign free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, multiple sources Monday at the Winter Meetings contend no agreement is imminent.

Kansas City, San Francisco and the Chicago White Sox have also shown recent interest in Cabrera, a 30-year-old switch-hitter who is believed to be seeking a five-year deal that could approach $60 million.

“Everything I hear is (the favorite is) the Mariners,” said an official from one of the rival clubs pursuing Cabrera. “He’s still talking with other teams, but it sure sounds like the Mariners are the team to beat.”

General manager Jack Zduriencik previously cited an outfield bat as the club’s top remaining off-season target, but he insisted the Mariners are not close to a deal with Cabrera – or any other major move – at the moment.

“No, we are not,” Zduriencik emphasized. “We have dialogue with a lot of clubs and some free agents. But I could not say that we’re close to anything right now.”

Other sources support Zduriencik’s statement by saying the Mariners continue to explore other possibilities, such as a trade for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp or pursuing free-agent outfielder Alex Rios.

Zduriencik also said the club has internal options but declined to elaborate.

“I’d like to be careful on that,” he said. “Until you talk to your players – they’re the first ones who would need to know what we’re thinking once we get through this next period of time.”

Zduriencik said that time frame could last into next year, but his comments suggest a possible position switch for one or more players. Brad Miller looms as a likely candidate if Chris Taylor is the regular shortstop.

“I think we need to let this evolve,” Zduriencik said, “and see how the club looks, let’s say, at the first of the year. I think, then, we could start to make some phone calls on some ideas we have – if we don’t add anything.”

The Mariners’ preferred option appears to be Cabrera, a 10-year veteran who batted .301 last season for Toronto with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 139 games before suffering a broken finger in early September.

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