The State of the Races

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AL EAST

The spread: The Yankees had a less-than-fabulous weekend in Anaheim yet they extend their lead over Boston to three and a half. Which tells you everything you need to known about Boston’s weekend in St. Petersburg.  The Red Sox now lead the Rays by a mere three and a half in the wild card. And they have four games remaining against one another.

The skinny: If the Rays catch and beat the Sox, there are not enough bookend analogies in the world available to describe the horrifying beginning and end of Boston’s season.

AL CENTRAL

The spread: The Tigers keep winning and the other guys don’t. They’re up 10.5 over Chicago, eleven over Cleveland.

The skinny: “Verlander and Fister and pray for a twister …”  Eh, needs work.

AL WEST

The spread: No change over the weekend. Texas’ lead is two and a half.

The skinny: September 26-28th, Texas vs. Anaheim. Here’s hoping it’s still close.

NL EAST

The spread: The Phillies continue to lay waste. It’s a 12 game lead. The Braves are in desperate need of the Heimlich Maneuver. Their wild card lead over St. Louis is a mere 4.5 after getting swept.

The skinny: Philly lost yesterday, but really, it’s almost comical how much better they look than anyone else in the NL.

NL CENTRAL

The spread: The Brewers dropping two of three three of four to Philly combined with the Cards’ sweep of the Braves reduces St. Louis’ deficit to six games. But really, St. Louis is shooting for Atlanta.

The skinny: The Cardinals face the Phillies this weekend. First time I’ll be rooting for the Phillies all year.

NL WEST

The spread: The Diamondbacks extend their lead over the Giants to eight and a half games.

The skinny: The Giants are activating Barry Zito. That’s like putting your freshman quarterback in the game to get some reps. In other words, the competitive portion of this contest is over.

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.