Daily Dose: Tigers get Huff from Orioles

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Detroit added Aubrey Huff to the mix Monday, sending 2008 fourth-round pick Brett Jacobson to Baltimore for the 32-year-old veteran. Huff was one of the best hitters in baseball last season, but has seen his OPS drop nearly 200 points this year while batting .253/.321/.405 in 110 games. Those numbers would be Huff’s worst since he was a rookie in 2001, so he figures to bounce back, especially versus righties.
However, finding a spot for him defensively could prove difficult for the Tigers. Huff has played only first base and designated hitter this season, was a terrible defensive third basemen even when he was playing there regularly, and hasn’t spent a single inning in the outfield since 2006. He’s not going to bump Miguel Cabrera from first base and Carlos Guillen seems entrenched at DH, so things could get tricky.
In theory he provides a backup plan at third base should Brandon Inge’s knee issues linger, but going from Inge to Huff would be a massive downgrade defensively. His best fit is probably in left field, platooning with the right-handed Marcus Thames, but the Tigers could also use Huff as a way to lessen Magglio Ordonez’s playing time as he nears the plate appearances needed to trigger next year’s $18 million option.
While the Tigers pick up a useful left-handed hitter and the Orioles get a decent relief prospect, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Vicente Padilla signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract extension after going 15-10 with a 4.50 ERA in 200 innings spread over 33 starts in 2006, but has posted a 5.09 ERA in 70 starts since. Texas designated him for assignment last week and released him outright Monday, eating the rest of his $12 million salary for this season while dropping another $1.75 million to buy out his $12 million option for 2010.
Padilla hasn’t had an ERA below 4.50 since 2003, has dealt with several injuries that includes a recent bout with swine flu, and the Rangers’ pitching staff is significantly improved, so simply cutting him loose has little chance of keeping general manager Jon Daniels up at night. With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a contender take a flier on Padilla down the stretch, because he’s still a reasonable fifth starter.
* Speaking of veteran pitchers getting released Monday, as expected the Red Sox cut John Smoltz loose. Smoltz reportedly balked at a possible move to the bullpen and the Red Sox had obviously seen enough of him as a starter after eight mostly terrible outings. He’s now free to sign anywhere and there’s speculation that at least a half-dozen teams could be vying for his services.
I’m still convinced that Smoltz can get big-league hitters out, but would certainly give him a shot in middle relief long before letting him take the mound as a starter again. He generally pitched fairly well during his first trip through the order and was pretty effective against right-handed batters, so bullpen work seems like the best remaining bet for the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer.
AL Quick Hits: No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley agreed to a last-minute deal with the Mariners that’s reportedly worth nearly $10 million … Meanwhile, the Rangers failed to sign first-round pick Matt Purke … Joe Mauer came up a triple short of the cycle Monday and also stole a base while boosting his batting average to .380 … Justin Morneau left Monday’s game with dizziness, either from the Texas heat or sickness from watching the Twins’ pitching staff … Vladimir Guerrero went deep twice and knocked in five runs Monday, giving him six long balls in 10 games … Matt Harrison (ribs) said Monday that “there’s a chance” he could pitch again this year … Francisco Liriano could be headed to the bullpen or the disabled list after coughing up seven runs in two innings Monday … Tigers first rounder Jacob Turner landed a big-league deal worth as much as $7 million, which is pretty amazing for a high-school pitcher.
NL Quick Hits: With just a few minutes remaining before Monday’s midnight signing deadline, No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreed to a deal that will reportedly pay him over $15 million … Tommy Hanson improved to 8-2 with another solid outing Monday and has 16 strikeouts versus zero walks in his last two starts … Garrett Jones went deep again Monday, giving the career minor leaguer 13 homers in 158 at-bats … Nate McLouth (hamstring) was placed on the disabled list Monday, so the Braves will shift Ryan Church to center field with Matt Diaz manning right field … Hiroki Kuroda (concussion) will miss his next start, but hopes to avoid the DL … Max Scherzer gave up nine runs Monday, but his own error made six of them unearned … No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate will bypass college after inking a $6.25 million deal with the Padres … Todd Wellemeyer (elbow) has been cleared to resume throwing.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.