Albert Pujols sets spring training deadline for contract talks

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That’s the sobering news from the team’s annual Winter Warm-Up event this afternoon.

According to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed that Albert Pujols and his agent Don Lozano will not negotiate a contract extension once spring training begins. It’s not clear if this has been the deadline all along, but some have speculated that the deadline would be the start of the season. Not so.

Consistent with an agreement to keep negotiations confidential, Mozeliak declined to go into any specifics, but he did say that the two sides continue to talk.

“We don’t want to sit here and handicap or guess or kind of give any type of gut feels as to where this thing is headed right now,” Mozeliak said. “In respect to that, that’s all I can really add to the topic at this time. Hopefully in the near future it’s something we can talk more about it.”

“I don’t think it would benefit anybody for me to weigh in at this point.”

By the way, as Rains notes, position players are scheduled to report to the team’s spring training complex in Jupiter on February 18. Ticktock, ticktock…

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.