Heath Bell, Carlos Pena and Jim Thome all go on trade waivers

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From FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal comes the news that the Padres’ Heath Bell, the Cubs’ Carlos Pena and the Twins’ Jim Thome and Jason Kubel were all placed on trade waivers Monday.

They’ll all be on waivers — but still eligible to play — through Wednesday.  If they clear waivers, they can be dealt at any point over the rest of the season, though to be eligible for the postseason, they’d have to be on their new rosters prior to Sept. 1.

Anyone not clearing waivers can either be pulled back or traded to the team with the highest priority that claims him.

Bell, Thome and Kubel are almost certain to get claimed on waivers.  Even a non-contender might try to pick up Bell or Kubel, simply for the fact that it’d be worth taking on about $1 million in salary in an effort to get back draft-pick compensation this winter.  All four players are going to become free agents after the season.

Since Pena makes the most money of the bunch and there isn’t a whole lot of need at first base among contenders, he might slip through waivers.

The Indians would be the obvious choice to grab Thome, especially after Travis Hafner got hurt Sunday.  Besides the White Sox, the Indians have the worst record of any AL contender.  Since these are trade waivers, leaguemates have priority for putting in claims.  Thome, though, does have no-trade protection and could block either a deal or a waiver claim.

Bell appears highly unlikely to be traded.  Any NL team, from the Astros and Cubs on up, could put in a claim just with the idea that he’d be worth it for the draft picks, and the Padres value those draft picks pretty highly themselves.

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.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.