Report: Dodgers looking at sub-$100 million payroll in 2012

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While there was talk last month about the Dodgers potentially being a player for Albert Pujols or Prince Fiedler this winter, it’s clear that’s not happening.

Sources told FOXSports.com that the Dodgers will enter 2012 with a payroll “well under” $100 million. The team opened 2011 with a $104.1 million payroll.

The moves the Dodgers have made to date support that assessment. The two-year deal given to Mark Ellis is structured so that he’ll receive $2.5 million next year and $5.25 million in 2013. Matt Kemp, who could have commanded as much as $16 million-$17 million in arbitration, will earn just $10 million next year as part of his eight-year, $160 million contract.

The FOXSports report goes on to state that the Dodgers have left enough flexibility in their budget to bring back both Andre Ethier and James Loney for what will be their final years of arbitration eligibility. The opportunity would be there for them to get both better and cheaper at first base, but Loney apparently was saved by his late-season surge.

As is, the Dodgers project to have just two standout regulars in Kemp and Ethier. Their lineup will probably look something like: SS Dee Gordon, 2B Ellis, CF Kemp, RF Ethier, LF Juan Rivera, 1B Loney, 3B Juan Uribe, C A.J. Ellis.

If this comes to pass as FOXSports expects, it will be the first time since 2006 that the Dodgers will open with a sub-$100 million payroll.

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.