Sifting through the rumors: Blue Jays – Halladay, Overbay and Bradley

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*The Yankees are expected to inquire about Roy Halladay, and new Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said trading within the AL East will “never be a stumbling block” for him.
The Red Sox figure to get back into the chase for Halladay is that’s the case. The Phillies still have the young talent to pull off a Halladay acquisition, though they may run into budget issues at some point. Also, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal believes the Angels could again target Halladay, particularly if they fail to re-sign free agent John Lackey.
It makes all kinds of sense for the Jays to trade Halladay now. They’re big long shots for 2010 anyway, and there may well be more quality starters available at the trade deadline next year than there are in free agency right now. With Tim Hudson out of the mix, there’s a huge drop-off from John Lackey to Randy Wolf, Rich Harden and the rest of the free agent options.
The Yankees’ chances of landing Halladay would likely hinge on their willingness to part with Jesus Montero, who may well be the second biggest offensive talent in the minors behind Atlanta’s Jason Heyward. One of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes would likely have to be involved as well. Hughes has the greater value of the two at this point, and it’s highly unlikely that the Bombers would part with both he and Montero. The packages that make the most sense are Chamberlain and Montero or Hughes plus outfielder Austin Jackson.
The Red Sox would probably be willing to part with Clay Buchholz if it would allow them to keep both Casey Kelly and Daniel Bard. The Jays, though, would likely insist on acquiring two of the three, particularly since most of the rest of Boston’s intriguing prospects are in the low minors. One exception is outfielder Josh Reddick, who could be positioned as a potential long-term replacement for Alex Rios.
The Jays would want three from the Phillies big four: J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor. The Angels have less talent to part with than usual, though the Jays would presumably be very interested in Erick Aybar if he was made available. Mike Napoli, Brandon Wood and right-hander Jordan Walden would also be brought up in talks.
*Lyle Overbay, who was nearly traded back to Arizona for Chris Snyder last week is now a possibility for Seattle after the Mariners were turned down by their own free agent, Russell Branyan.
Perhaps this is nothing more than the Mariners trying to put some heat on Branyan, who is holding out for a two-year deal. Overbay’s name is getting kicked around everywhere else, so if the Mariners could figure that throwing their hat into the ring will cause Branyan to reconsider their offer of one year and an option.
If there’s actually something to the rumor, then outfielder Michael Saunders and infielder Matt Tuiasosopo could be possible returns for Overbay, who will earn $7 million next year and then become a free agent. The idea of going year to year with their first baseman is attractive to Seattle, since prospect Mike Carp isn’t far away. The Blue Jays are open to moving Overbay because they’re interested in installing Adam Lind at first base.
*The Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott believes the Jays still have some interest in Milton Bradley and repeats the Bradley-Lyle Overbay-Luis Castillo rumor that made the rounds on Monday.
Bradley makes an awful lot of sense for the Jays if the Cubs are willing to pay a chunk of the $21 million he’s owed over the next two years. Bradley is being viewed as a liability because of that salary and maybe he is, but he just led the entire American League in OPS with the Rangers in 2008. With Overbay out of the picture, the Blue Jays would have the option of using him as a full-time DH or rotating him into the outfield when he’s healthy. There’s probably nothing to the three-team proposal involving the Mets, but Bradley is there for the taking if the Jays want him.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.