Joel Hanrahan open to contract extension with Pirates

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Joel Hanrahan has emerged as one of the better relief pitchers in baseball since coming over from the Nationals in the Njyer Morgan trade in June of 2009. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 1.83 ERA this season and finished sixth in the National League with 40 saves.

Sure, save totals don’t tell us much about how a player actually performed, but relievers are regularly rewarded by that metric through the arbitration process. This puts the Pirates in an interesting position this winter.

Hanrahan earned $1.4 million this season and could see his salary reach as much as $4 million in his second year of arbitration. He told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that while he is open to a contract extension with the Pirates, he is also aware of organization’s reluctance to hand out multi-year contracts to relief pitchers.

“Yeah, of course I’d listen to it,” said Hanrahan, who saved 40 games in his first full season as the club’s closer. “It’s every player’s goal to get a multiyear contract. If they approach me with it, I’ll listen to it and take it in. It’s a situation where we’ll see what happens.

“I don’t think the track record with relievers and long-term deals in Pittsburgh is much because I don’t think they’ve handed too many of them out. But I’d be prepared for whatever.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has only given one-year multi-year deal to a reliever since he was hired in September of 2007, inking Matt Capps to a two-year, $3.15 million contract prior to the 2008 season. He ended up being non-tendered after posting a 5.80 ERA and 46/17 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings in 2009.

If the Pirates sign Hanrahan to an extension now, they could buy out his final two years of arbitration and perhaps a year of free agency, but it might not be the best idea to commit major dollars to a closer when the team isn’t exactly knocking on the door of contention. This may actually be the ideal time to trade him to a contender who isn’t too keen on dishing out a three or four-year deal for the likes of Heath Bell or Ryan Madson.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

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.