UPDATE 10:37: Just got back from running the Jingle Bell 5K in downtown Seattle and see a tweet from an Indians reporter that the M’s are out, and it’s down to Cleveland and Minnesota.
While all the focus has been on Prince Fielder, the Mariners appear to be working on getting a different power hitter, Josh Willingham.
According to the tweet above earlier tonight from former major-league GM Jim Bowden, the Mariners and the Indians are in the lead to land Willingham, who hit 29 homers and drove in 98 runs last year for Oakland.
Bowden — who caused a bit of a stir during the winter meetings by tweeting that the Mariners were the frontrunner for Fielder — referenced a text he received from Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick. Sosnick told him that the Mariners, Indians, Reds, Rockies and Twins were the frontrunners for Willingham. Bowden then added that a “friend of Josh” said the Mariners and Indians are in the lead.
Willingham, who turns 33 in February, is a right-handed hitter who has played 662 of his 711 career games in left field. He’s played 35 in right, 15 at catcher (but none behind the plate since 2006), three at first base, and 45 at designated hitter.
Last year, in 136 games for the A’s, Willingham hit .246 with a .332 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage for a .810 OPS. The only Mariners with a higher OPS were Alex Liddi at .820 (in 40 at-bats) and Doug Fister at .833 (in six at-bats). The home runs and RBIs were a career high for Willingham, who has also played for the Nationals and Marlins in an eight-year career.
Sosnick has indicated Willingham is seeking a three-year deal.