Mark Trumbo hitting .194 with 65 strikeouts in last 43 games

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Not so long ago Mark Trumbo seemed headed for a breakout season, making the All-Star team on the basis of a huge first half and hitting .307 with 27 homers, 16 doubles, and a .988 OPS in 85 games through July 20.

And then he just stopped hitting.

Since then Trumbo has played 43 games, batting .194 with three homers, zero doubles, and a .499 OPS while striking out 65 times compared to 11 walks.

He’s been so bad for so long that manager Mike Scioscia has recently been semi-regularly benching him in favor of Vernon Wells, who’s sporting a .227 batting average and .701 OPS after being incredibly unproductive last season.

Here’s how Scioscia explained the situation to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:

There are a finite amount of games right now. With a guy like Trum, it’s a Catch-22. He has to go out there and swing, and right now, his struggles are taking some at-bats away from him. When he finds it, he usually keeps it, and it can come quickly for him. We need him, and we’ll definitely give him enough chances to get there with the option of spotting Vernon or some other guys to give us a little boost if he continues to struggle.

Here’s the thing, though: Dating back to mid-July, when Trumbo started slumping, Wells has hit .190 with four homers and a .696 OPS in 25 games. That’s better than Trumbo, sure, but it’s still really, really bad. If Scioscia is going to bench Trumbo for someone he ought to think about it being Peter Bourjos, because at least then the Angels will be getting amazing defense.

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.