Hardy wants to remain shortstop, expects trade

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J.J. Hardy rejoined the Brewers yesterday following a 20-day stint at Triple-A that was just long enough to push back his free agency for an extra season.
While he was gone the team handed his old job to 22-year-old prospect Alcides Escobar and upon his return Hardy admitted that he’s probably not long for Milwaukee:

Not that I want to be traded. That’s not the case at all. But when you hear about two years [before free agency] now, obviously it makes me more valuable in a trade. If that’s what they’re doing, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I think it just kind of makes sense. You’ve got Escobar ready. You’ve been waiting on Escobar for a couple of years now. There’s been all the trade rumors. I guess it’s something I’ll find out or worry about in the off-season.

Hardy strongly denied speculation that he brought on the demotion to Triple-A by refusing a move to third base, calling those rumors “total B.S.” However, he did express a clear desire to remain a shortstop going forward:

Until there’s no other teams out there that like me as a shortstop or like [Escobar] as a shortstop, I think we both want to be shortstops. I see myself as a shortstop, and I’m sure he sees himself as a shortstop. If both of us are going to be in the big leagues, we’ll have to be on separate teams. It’s just a rare situation.

Hardy has always graded out well defensively at shortstop, producing a positive Ultimate Zone Rating in each of his five seasons for a cumulative mark of 11.1 runs above average per 150 games. Beyond that, whether his offense bounces back to pre-2009 levels or this year’s funk is a sign of things to come his bat will obviously be a bigger asset at shortstop (average OPS of .719) than third base (average OPS of .757).
As a 27-year-old shortstop with a good glove who’s hit .268/.325/.445 over the past three seasons Hardy should be a popular trade target this offseason. Look for the Brewers to swap him for some pitching.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

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.