Rangers sign Jeff Baker to minor league contract

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Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers have signed utility infielder Jeff Baker to a minor league contract. The deal carries an invitation to spring training, where Baker will attempt to win a spot on the Texas bench.

Baker, 31, batted .239/.279/.378 with four homers and 25 RBI in 201 plate appearances last season between the Cubs, Tigers and Braves. He is a .266/.316/.428 career hitter in the major leagues.

Baker has played every infield position but shortstop over his eight-year MLB career and is also capable of serving as a fill-in at the corner outfield spots. He’ll be competing this spring with the likes of Leury Garcia, Yangervis Solarte and Brandon Snyder.

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.