SEATTLE — The Mariners are on the verge of landing the right-handed slugger they were seeking for the middle of their batting order.
Free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz and Seattle are nearing agreement on a contract, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday. The pair spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized and was still pending a physical.
El Caribe in the Dominican Republic first reported the agreement, saying it was worth $57 million over for four years.
Seattle did not comment.
Cruz led the major leagues with 40 home runs last season and had 108 RBIs for Baltimore, which signed him to an $8 million, one-year deal. He served a 50-game suspension in 2013 for violations of the major league drug agreement in relation to the sport’s Biogenesis investigation.
He likely will bat behind fellow Dominican star Robinson Cano, who will be starting the second season of a $240 million, 10-year contract.
Cruz did not accept a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Orioles. Seattle would forfeit its first-round draft pick, the 19th overall selection. Baltimore would get an additional pick between the first and second rounds.
Seattle also has a $100 million, seven-year deal with third baseman Kyle Seager that awaits completion.
The Mariners have among the top pitching staffs in the AL but missed the postseason by one game last season due to offensive shortcomings.
Cruz would fit the need, even if Seattle is taking a risk with such a significant commitment to a 34-year-old who has never posted big numbers at Safeco Field. Cruz has hit at least 22 homers in every season since 2009 and has been an All-Star three times. Cruz’s .271 batting average and .525 slugging percentage last season with Baltimore was his highest since 2010 with Texas.
Cruz has hit .240 with nine homers and 19 RBIs in 52 games in Seattle — better than his .185 career average in Oakland and .218 in Anaheim.
Seattle hoped last season that Corey Hart could return from knee troubles and add right-handed pop to an overwhelmingly left-handed batting order but he hit .203 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 68 games. Seattle also brought back switch-hitting designated hitter Kendrys Morales at midseason, but he could not match his 2013 production.
According to STATS, Inc., the Mariners’ .332 slugging percentage by right-handed batters this year was the lowest for an AL team in a non-shortened season since the 1979 Oakland Athletics.
Rays deal Rodriguez to Pittsburgh: The Tampa Bay Rays traded utilityman Sean Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named and cash.
Rodriguez played every position except pitcher and catcher for the Rays during the past five seasons. He has a .225 career average and appeared in 96 games this year, batting .211 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs.
Tampa Bay designated the 29-year-old for assignment last week, clearing roster room to sign free agent reliever Ernesto Frieri.
Rodriguez would be eligible for salary arbitration if he remains on the roster past Tuesday and has not signed.
Pittsburgh designated first baseman Gaby Sanchez for assignment. Sanchez hit .229 with seven homers and 33 RBIs. Pedro Alvarez is likely to move from third base to first next season.
The Pirates also agreed to minor league contracts with outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, infielder Deibinson Romero and catcher Sebastian Valle, and invited the three to big league spring training.
Kotsay hired as hitting coach: The San Diego Padres hired former big leaguer Mark Kotsay as their hitting coach, making him the seventh person to hold the job since Petco Park opened in 2004.
Kotsay replaces Phil Plantier, who was fired after the end of last season, when the Padres’ offense was abysmal.
It will be the first professional coaching job for Kotsay, who turns 39 on Tuesday. After retiring from his playing career following the 2013 season, he spent last season as a special assistant to the Padres’ general manager.
Kotsay played parts of 17 big league seasons with the Marlins, Padres, Athletics, Braves, Red Sox, White Sox and Brewers.
Adderall caused most positive tests: While 113 big leaguers had exemptions in the past year to use otherwise banned substances to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Adderall caused eight of the 10 positive tests for stimulants under Major League Baseball’s drug program.
A report released Monday by MLB’s independent program administrator detailed the findings. Dr. Jeffrey M. Anderson’s report showed that therapeutic use exemptions given to 40-man roster players to treat ADHD were down from the 119 in the year ending with the 2013 World Series.
Among the TUEs for ADHD, there were 11 for new players, down from 21 the previous year and the lowest total since 2008, a person familiar with the data told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because those figures were not in the report.
MLB and the players’ association say the condition is more frequent in young adult males than among the general population.
One TUE also was granted for Hypogonadism, down from three.
Baltimore pitcher Troy Patton, San Diego outfielder Cameron Maybin and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis all served 25-game suspensions this year that followed banned tests for stimulants. Patton, now a free agent, was suspended again last month and will miss the first 80 games after he signs with a big league organization.
Players are suspended for banned stimulants only starting with a second violation. Initial positive tests are not announced and result in follow-up testing.
There were two positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs that led to 50-game suspensions: Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Colome for Boldenone, which has led to suspensions in several sports, and Seattle first baseman Ji-Man Choi for Methandienone, a substance popular with bodybuilders.
In addition, New York Yankees first baseman Alex Rodriguez served a season-long ban for violations of the sport’s drug agreement and labor contract related to MLB’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America clinic and not to positive tests.
MLB conducted 6,394 urine tests for PEDs and stimulants, up from 4,022 the previous year, and 1,535 blood tests for human growth hormone, an increase from 1,369. There has not been a positive HGH test since MLB began collecting blood samples in 2012.