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Ryan Braun publicly denied taking banned substances at Brewers camp today, expressing a willingness to bet his life that the substance in question never entered his body. Braun called the current drug testing system ‘fatally flawed’ and respectfully disagreed with MLB’s reaction to yesterday’s news that he won his appeal. Here’s the latest from the NL Central…
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hears the Cardinals recently boosted their offer to Roy Oswalt to $5MM from $3MM (Twitter links). Oswalt announced yesterday that he will look to sign midseason.
- The Cardinals have made enough progress in extension talks with Yadier Molina that an agreement could be in place within a week, Strauss reports.
- Major League Baseball is a big loser in the aftermath of Braun's appeal, since an old wound has been re-opened, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.
Considerable uncertainty surrounds the Brewers, who don't yet know whether Ryan Braun will miss 50 games after a positive test for a banned substance. Here are the latest links from the NL Central, which will look much different than it did a year ago whether or not Braun plays a full season in 2012…
- Braun is on his way to Brewers camp and doesn’t know whether he’ll face a 50-game suspension yet, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. A decision is expected today or tomorrow.
- Brewers camp is looking different this year, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are more distractions than the Brewers would like, as Braun's possible suspension looms and the club moves on without Prince Fielder.
- Agent Melvin Roman recently met with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak to discuss an extension for Yadier Molina, Derrick Goold and Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report. The most recent round of discussions took place in the past two days and went well, the Post-Dispatch reports. Roman said Tuesday that the sides won't discuss an extension after Opening Day.
- Coco Crisp said the Cardinals offered him a multiyear deal this offseason, Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group tweets. The outfielder eventually signed a two-year, $14MM contract with the Athletics.
- The Pirates nearly signed Chris Gimenez earlier this month, the catcher told Bill Chastain of MLB.com. The Rays signed Gimenez soon after the Mariners released him.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's agent, Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management, said Tuesday that his client will not discuss a potential contract extension once the regular season begins, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Molina, 30 in July, is an extension candidate as he enters his final season before free agency, although extensions talks have recently been put on hold. Roman intends to remain in Florida for several days to potentially resume extension discussions, although nothing is imminent on that front as of now, according to Strauss.
"It could be tomorrow. It could be two days. It could be two weeks," Roman said. "If they want us to come back, we'll come back."
Molina, a right-handed hitter, owns a .271/.331/.377 career line with 55 homers in parts of eight big leagues seasons and is generally considered among the game's best defensive catchers. He's believed to be seeking a five-year deal with an average annual salary of $10MM, Strauss reports.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said he and Roman talked on Tuesday but declined to comment on whether those discussions included the parameters for a potential extension.
3:30pm: Rains' full article on the situation is posted at FOXSportsMidwest.com. While there doesn't seem to be a deadline on talks, Molina did say that like most players, he prefers to focus on the game during the season rather than his contract. He also shot down the idea of offering St. Louis a hometown discount:
"I don't know about that,” Molina said. "Like I always say, I like the town and I like the city, but at the same time, I have to think about my family. You have to worry about your family like they worry about the team. This is business. If I get good money, I'll take it. If not, I'll go away.”
2:37pm: Yadier Molina spoke very candidly about his contract situation today, according to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, who reports that he and the Cardinals have put extension talks on hold for the time being. Rains notes that Molina said he's still willing to re-open negotiations (Twitter links).
The Cards picked up Molina's $7MM option shortly after their World Series victory, ensuring that the youngest Molina brother would be in St. Louis for at least one more season. MLBTR's Mark Polishuk recently identified Yadi as an extension candidate, concluding that he could fetch a four- or five-year deal with an average annual value in excess of $10MM on the open market.
A fourth round draft pick of St. Louis back in 2000, the Puerto Rico native has spent his entire career with the Cardinals. Molina signed a four-year deal worth $15.5MM prior to the 2008 season. That value has escalated to a total of $22.85MM over five years after his option was exercised and he picked up $350K in bonuses for his four Gold Gloves and three All-Star selections.
The 29-year-old enjoyed a career year last season when he hit .305/.349/.465 (career highs in average and slugging) and also added career highs in homers (14), doubles (32), and RBI (65).
Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for details on Molina's contract bonuses.
For the second straight winter, the Cardinals could face the prospect of losing a long-time star to free agency. Yadier Molina is not Albert Pujols, but the catcher's defensive prowess and his underrated bat will make his long-term future a major topic of concern for the Cards throughout this season.
Molina's next contract is likely to pay him in the neighborhood of $10MM per season, though his skillset makes him markedly different from the only other two catchers (Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer) who have signed deals with a $10MM AAV. Those players were both known primarily for their bats — Posada was a below-average defensive catcher while in Mauer's case, it's seemingly just a matter of time before injuries will eventually force him to move from behind the plate.
In Molina's case, however, defense is his calling card, be it throwing out would-be base-stealers (a 44% caught stealing rate over his career), picking off baserunners or his four Gold Gloves. As if being considered the best defensive catcher in baseball wasn't enough, Molina is also an underrated threat at the plate. Molina has hit .291/.348/.396 over the last four seasons, culminating with a career-best .814 OPS and 14 homers last season.
Molina is entering the last year of his contract with the Cardinals after the team made the no-brainer move of picking up their $7MM option on Molina for 2012. GM John Mozeliak said last month that there was a mutual interest between the team and the catcher in an extension, and that the Cards were "going to try to find a way to make it work."
Though he turns 30 in July, Molina's age shouldn't prevent him from finding at least a four-year deal on the open market, provided of course that he produces as usual in 2012. Between his consistent numbers, his defense, the scarcity of the catching position and his reputation as a clubhouse leader, Molina should be on pace to receive a four- or five-year contract worth $10MM per season, plus probably a club option year tacked onto the end.
Molina and his representatives at MDR Sports Management could certainly find a contract like that on the free agent market, but would they find it in St. Louis? One bright side of Pujols' departure is that it leaves the Cardinals with a good deal of long-term payroll flexibility. Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse come off the books after this year and Jake Westbrook's $8.5MM team option is unlikely to be exercised, so that frees up just under $33MM. The Cards will have to decide about extending Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (the latter is likelier than the former, though Wainwright's health is a bit of a question mark post-Tommy John surgery) and also maybe explore multiyear deals for young stars like Allen Craig, Jason Motte and David Freese. With just $68MM committed to the 2013 payroll, there seems to be no financial reason why the Cardinals couldn't bring Molina back.
There have been whispers that Molina may be disenchanted with the Cards' organization because they let his close friend Pujols leave, though new manager Mike Matheny denied this after recently speaking to Molina. While most St. Louis fans have made their peace with Pujols' departure given the sheer size of his Angels contract, it wouldn't be good for the Cardinals from a PR perspective if another homegrown star (one who would've commanded far less of a financial commitment) also left town.
Only Molina and his inner circle know if he truly wants to remain a Cardinal or not, but even if he doesn't, the Cards at least need to make every attempt to re-sign him. Molina is too much of a pro to carry any negative feelings onto the field, so if the two sides can't work out a new deal before Opening Day, expect a relatively drama-free season akin to how Pujols carried himself in his walk year. An extension would essentially guarantee that Molina retires as a Cardinal and, ironically, would mean that he would be supplanting his old friend as the face of the franchise.
Congratulations to Brewers GM Doug Melvin for his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Joining Melvin in the 2012 CBHOF class are former Major Leaguers Rheal Cormier and Rusty Staub, plus Canada's gold-medal winning baseball team from the 2011 Pan Am Games. The official induction ceremony takes place on June 23 in St. Marys, Ontario.
Some news from around the NL Central….
- Yadier Molina's contract negotiations shouldn't impact either his or the Cardinals' performance in 2012, manager Mike Matheny tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Matheny said that Albert Pujols' departure won't influence Molina's own contract situation, though Molina is understandably disappointed that his good friend left St. Louis to sign with the Angels.
- Also from Strauss, he runs through 11 outstanding questions facing the Cardinals heading into the season.
- Ryan Dempster expressed an interest in remaining with the Cubs for the rest of career during an interview on MLB Network Radio's First Pitch on Thursday (interview highlights courtesy of CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney). Dempster exercised a $14MM player option to stay with the Cubs in 2012 but it's uncertain if the rebuilding Cubs would try to bring him back in free agency.
- The Reds' current TV contract is believed to run through 2016 and pays the team around $10MM per year, reports John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay thinks the Reds will need a major upgrade in their next cable contract to compete with teams like the Angels and Padres, who have completed, or are close to competing, much more lucractive TV deals.
- MLB.com's Tom Singer thinks Edwin Jackson (and agent Scott Boras) made a mistake in turning down one-year and three-year offers from the Pirates to sign a one-year, $11MM deal with the Nationals. Singer feels Jackson would've re-established his value better pitching in the NL Central on the one-year contract, and the three-year deal would've given Jackson some security against either a drop in form or getting "swallowed up by a market that might include the likes of Matt Cain, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels."
Seven years ago today, the Cubs traded Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Scott Moore, Roberto Novoa, and Bo Flowers. Farnsworth spent half-a-season in Detroit before being traded to the Braves at the deadline. Here's the latest on baseball's two central divisions…
- Alex Gordon told Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star that he and his agent wanted to work out a one-year deal for 2012 before discussing a longer contract (Twitter link). He also confirmed that the Royals have offered him a long-term deal. Gordon avoided arbitration with a one-year pact earlier today.
- "I love the city. I love the fans, I love the park. But it's out of my hands," said Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when asked about a new contract (Twitter links). "Whatever they like to do is how it is … They let Albert [Pujols] go. It's business for the team, too. It's out of my hands." Molina can become a free agent after the season.
- "We're very active in terms of looking at transactions that are happening out there," said Astros GM Jeff Luhnow to Examiner.com's Stephen Goff. "Right now, most of the free agents have signed. Roy Oswalt is probably the last guy out there. We've got our fingers in everything. Are we actively looking to move a player or sign somebody at this point? No. We have got 61 guys coming to camp. From that group of 61, we believe we can get a real good 25-man roster to start the season."
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter) that the arbitrator in Ryan Braun's case won't be limited to the usual 25-day window, so a decision isn't necessarily expected by this Sunday. The Brewers slugger is appealing his failed banned substance test.
A few news items to wrap up a busy Monday…
- The Cubs, Marlins and Tigers are the three teams most actively targeting Yoenis Cespedes, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Last week, Cespedes said the Cubs were his most ardent suitor, with the Marlins, Tigers, Orioles, White Sox and Indians also showing "more interest" in him.
- White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin that he plans to continue playing after 2012. Pierzynski, 35, has spent the last seven years with the Sox and is a free agent after this season.
- Yadier Molina's future with the Cardinals is debated in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch roundtable.
- Bud Selig's two-year contract extension was officially finalized and announced today, Major League Baseball announced. Selig will remain commissioner through the 2014 season. The extension was approved by a unanimous 30-0 vote amongst team owners.
- Derrek Lee could retire if he doesn't find "a perfect situation," tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Yesterday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post said Lee could be in for a Jermaine Dye-esque "forced retirement" since no team would be willing to meet his desired price.
- The Rays reportedly have interest in Edgar Renteria for a bench spot, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- The Astros will consider uniform changes and even possibly a name change for 2013, new club owner Jim Crane announced at a press conference today (passed on by Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle).
- Indians catcher Lou Marson could see a lot of playing time against left-handed pitching, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Regular catcher Carlos Santana could play at first base on the days the strong-armed Marson (who threw out 33.3% of baserunners last year) is behind the plate. The right-handed hitting Marson has a .285/.367/.395 career line against southpaws and would add balance to an Indians lineup that is very heavy on left-handed bats.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke to fans and media at the team's 16th annual Winter Warm-Up today, touching on a wide range of topics. MLB.com's Matthew Leach was there, and provided us with a rundown of all the news. Let's recap…
- Mozeliak called the Albert Pujols negotiations "exhausting (and) frustrating," but said it is time to move on. "[It] just creates new opportunities for us," he added.
- "In terms of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, I really can’t get into those types of details," said Mozeliak when asked about a potential contract extension for Yadier Molina, who can become a free agent after the season. "But I assure we’re going to try to find a way to make it work. I know that he also wants to try to be here as well, so usually when you have that type of understanding and mutual agreement, you usually can get something resolved.”
- "I haven’t heard anything about it and I probably won’t until they see that I’m healthy and out there rolling," said Adam Wainwright when asked about a potential contract extension, according to Leach. "But of course I want to finish my career here, everybody knows that. Everybody that plays here wants to finish their career here."
- When asked about the possibility of signing Roy Oswalt, Mozeliak replied that he likes "the idea of an insurance policy" for the rotation. "There’s no doubt that he would be a nice addition, but I just don’t know how practical it is at this time," he added.
- Unsurprisingly, Mozeliak made it very clear that the Cardinals will not be signing Prince Fielder. He said any further additions would likely involve a pitcher and not a hitter.
- Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny have spoken about bringing Jim Edmonds back to the organization in some non-playing capacity. “As far as what the role looks like or how we define it, we haven’t done that yet,” said the GM.
The Cardinals not only won the World Series, but they've also been named Baseball America's 2011 Organization Of The Year. This is the first time the St. Louis organization has taken top honors since Baseball America instituted the award in 1982.
Here's some other news from around the NL Central….
- The Pirates are talking to southpaw Jo-Jo Reyes about a minor league contract, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Reyes posted a 5.57 ERA in 29 games with the Blue Jays and Orioles in 2011 and was non-tendered by the O's earlier this week.
- The Astros will give several of their young arms a shot at the closer's job in Spring Training, reports MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Houston also has Brandon Lyon returning to provide some veteran closing experience. Stay tuned to Closer News for the latest on the Astros' late-game situation.
- Yadier Molina's contract is up after 2012 and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if Molina's friendship with Albert Pujols could make the catcher less inclined to re-sign with the Cardinals. Molina would be one of the most-sought after members of the 2013 free agent class if he and the Cards don't agree on a new deal. Miklasz suggests the Angels could target Molina this winter if he hits free agency, but I'd think such a move would only happen if Chris Iannetta is a big disappointment behind the plate in Anaheim.
- Tony La Russa tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Pujols was "conflicted' about leaving the Cardinals to sign with the Angels. "I know it was a painful decision and it pains him now," La Russa said. "He deserves what he got. He earned it. There's no bad guy here." La Russa also felt the situation was "unavoidable" and that Pujols "was disappointed there wasn't more enthusiasm from the Cardinals" when the Angels and Marlins made big pushes to sign the superstar at the Winter Meetings.