I normally wouldn’t do a post about a guy losing a backup catcher competition, but this one is notable because he was supposed to be an extra special backup catcher: the Blue Jays have sent Josh Thole down to the minors.
Many thought the whole point of the Mets including Thole in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto was so that he could be Dickey’s personal catcher. You know, because knuckleballers are so erratic and need a special guy around. Maybe the height of this was when The Red Sox took such efforts to get Doug Mirabelli back from the Padres in 2006, after Tim Wakefield had to go without his special services behind the plate for almost a whole month. Mirabelli had a friggin’ police escort to Fenway Park he was so important.
But there are apparently limits to what a team will do for a knuckleballer’s special friend, and carrying Thole’s bat is the limit. Thole hit just .234/.294/.290 last year and was doing even worse this spring for his new club. It appears as though Henry Blanco who, conservatively, has been catching 142 years, will get the backup job.
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.
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.