Expanded replay unlikely to be ready for Opening Day

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Amidst all the exciting free agent and trade talk from the Winter Meetings is this dispiriting report by ESPN’s Jayson Stark. While commissioner Bud Selig said in October that he wanted to have expanded replay in place for the 2013 season, it seems increasingly likely that it won’t happen.

Two sources familiar with the replay discussions told ESPN Monday that it’s now highly unlikely that baseball will be ready to increase its use of replay by Opening Day, because it still hasn’t settled on which technology it wants to use or how to employ it.

“I wouldn’t say there’s no chance,” one source said. “But given where we are, I’d say there’s almost no chance.”

Well, that’s a bummer. The plan calls for expanded replay to cover fair/foul balls and trap/catch calls, changes which were actually agreed to in the new collective bargaining agreement last year, but there’s a divide whether to use traditional replay or two experimental technologies which were tested in Yankee Stadium and Citi Field late in the season. And if additional “replay umpires” are needed to help expedite the process of replay decisions, those changes would need to be negotiated with the umpires’ union. There’s momentum to eventually get this right, as Stark details, but it seems there’s too much red tape to get it in place by April. It’s a shame.

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.