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…

Rays acquire Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins

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The Rays have acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Marlins, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The Marlins will receive minor league outfielder Braxton Lee and pitcher Ethan Clark. The Rays are expected to assume the remainder of Hechavarria’s $4.35 million salary for the 2017 season.

Hechavarria, 28, has only played in 20 games this season due to an oblique injury. He has mustered a meager .277/.288/.385 triple-slash line with four extra-base hits and six RBI across 67 plate appearances. He still plays decent defense, though, so that may be enough for him to take the everyday shortstop job in Tampa.

Lee, 23, was selected by the Rays in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. This season with Double-A Montgomery, his second stint there, Lee hit .318/.387/.391 over 296 PA.

Clark, 22, was taken in the 15th round of the 2015 draft by the Rays. In his first stint at Single-A in Bowling Green, Clark has a 3.11 ERA with a 50/18 K/BB ratio in 55 innings of work.

Nats players are fed up with their bullpen issues

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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post does frequent Q&As with readers and today he had quite the A to one of their Qs.

The question was about the Nats’ bullpen, which is obviously a glaring weakness on an otherwise excellent team. Following a long answer talking about the approach to bullpen construction, he dropped this:

On Friday, yet ANOTHER National simply walked up to me and said, “When the hell are they going to get this done? What are they waiting for? Waiting is just doing more damage.”

He didn’t even have to say what subject he was talking about or whom “they” were but it’s the bullpen and the Lerners.

A team has a problem when all a reporter has to do is say, “How’s it going?” and an established part of the team blasts the owners for not understanding what’s happening in their own dugout/clubhouse.

The Nats have a bit of a history venting to the Post’s reporters in ways a lot of players don’t vent, but that’s usually when things are going bad overall. These days, things are going pretty good for the Nats, the bum bullpen notwithstanding. I guess one weakness on an otherwise good team is annoying as hell.

But I guess now that they’re getting K-Rod, all of that will end.