Rockies interested in Brandon Webb and Jeff Karstens

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After a year in which their starters posted a major-league worst 5.22 ERA, the Rockies continue to look for reinforcements for their rotation. While the club remains open to possible trades, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports that they have expressed “mild interest” in free agent right-handers Brandon Webb and Jeff Karstens.

Webb, who turns 34 in May, is on the comeback trail again after sitting out last season following another shoulder surgery. Bill Geivett, the Rockies’ director of major league operations, confirmed that the club plans to watch Webb throw for teams later this month. We already know that the Twins are also expected to be in attendance.

Webb hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since Opening Day of 2009 and his last comeback fizzled with the Rangers in 2011 due to more shoulder issues. The best-case scenario is that he gets a minor league deal with a spring training invite.

Karstens has a decent 4.02 ERA over 375 2/3 innings over the past three seasons, but he was limited to just 90 2/3 innings in 2012 due to hip and shoulder injuries. The Pirates non-tendered him in late October rather than give him a raise in arbitration, but he should be able to find a major league deal somewhere.

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.