Cardinals sign Allen Craig to $31 million contract extension

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Allen Craig was very productive as a part-timer in 2011 and had a breakout year stepping into the starting lineup last season, and now the Cardinals have locked him up long term.

Craig has agreed to a five-year contract that includes a team option for 2018, so he’s now under the Cardinals’ control through age 33. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the deal is worth $31 million in guaranteed money.

While technically a five-year deal, the contract includes this season and then covers all three of Craig’s arbitration-eligible seasons (2014-2016) plus his first season of free agency (2017). And then the Cardinals get an option year on his second season of free agency (2018).

It’s a big commitment to a guy who didn’t play regularly in the majors until age 25, but Craig has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the past two seasons while batting .309 with 33 homers, 50 doubles, and an .889 OPS in 733 plate appearances. Among all MLB hitters with at least 600 plate appearances during that time Craig ranks 12th in batting average, 14th in slugging percentage, and 18th in OPS.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.