Kevin Youkilis is preparing for third base

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The Red Sox have a tricky offseason ahead of them. They have to figure out if they can bring Adiran Beltre back, and if not, what to do about third base. Or maybe first base, because Kevin Youkilis is being a team player and is talking like he’s ready and eager to take over the hot corner:

“I’m preparing myself to play third base because if you prepare yourself to play third base and you play first, it’s an easy transition. So, for me, I try and prepare myself mentally to play third. I’ll probably take a little more ground balls this year, but hopefully we’ll find out sooner than later . . . I love third base. I love playing it, I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. I would love to play third base, but wherever the team needs me I’ll play.”

If he is capable of handling third base — and my guess is that he would be at least acceptable over there — it makes the Red Sox way more flexible as they try to fill holes. Maybe you go with Beltre, but maybe not. Maybe you go after a portly, second-generation major league slugger who plays first base instead. There are simply more options out there with Youkilis at third, even if, long term, he’s better off at first. After all, worst case scenario: either Youkilis or whatever masher comes in moves to DH next year or whenever it is the Red Sox get tired of David Ortiz.

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.