Rangers, Blue Jays are the “front-runners” for Matt Garza

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From beat writer Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas:

Many of the same teams that have had strong interest in Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza were on hand to watch his outing on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays remain the front-runners for a trade with Chicago, according to industry sources. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants have also expressed strong interest in the pitcher.

Garza was not great in that start, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings against the rival Cardinals. But he still has a shiny 3.17 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 71 total innings this season and he’s probably the best available starting pitcher on the trade market (unless the Phillies suddenly decide to shop ace left-hander Cliff Lee).

Garza, 29, is making $10.25 million this season in his final year of salary arbitration. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune hears that he will be traded before his next turn in the Cubs’ starting rotation.

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.