UPDATE: Done deal. Laird gets $1 million guaranteed, plus $300,000 in incentives.
Matthew Leach of MLB.com hasn’t been able to confirm the news yet, but Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Cardinals are close to signing veteran catcher Gerald Laird.
Laird is coming off a career-worst season in Detroit, hitting just .207 with a .567 OPS, but it’s still surprising that he wasn’t able to land somewhere that could offer more playing time.
With the Cardinals he’ll serve as Yadier Molina’s backup, which tends to be a pretty easy gig. Molina has started 136 and 130 games behind the plate in the past two seasons and has averaged 118 starts in six full seasons in St. Louis. That leaves Laird playing once or maybe twice per week, which will be a big change for a 31-year-old who’s averaged 100 starts in the past four seasons.
Laird would be replacing Jason LaRue, whose career was ended by a concussion suffered from a Johnny Cueto kick to the head.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.