Angels discuss extensions with Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick

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Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick are both free agents after this season, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said today that the Angels have “begun to explore and will continue to explore” long-term contract extensions for their middle infield duo.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times classifies the talks as “preliminary discussions” and speculates that both Aybar and Kendrick would get at least $30 million over four seasons if extensions are reached.

Kendrick made $3.3 million last season while Aybar earned $3 million, but both players are in line for sizable raises via the arbitration process and four-year deals would buy out their first three seasons of free agency.

They’ve failed to develop into stars, but Aybar and Kendrick are each solidly above-average players at their positions and still under 30 years old, so four-year deals worth $30-35 million would certainly be sound investments for the Angels with relatively minimal risk.

Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.