It begins: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout, round two

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Expect a lot of columns of this nature over the next few months until a winner is announced. MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, using the two home runs Miguel Cabrera hit last night and this afternoon as a springboard, writes that Cabrera is “transcending” the AL MVP debate, which is once again boiling down to Cabrera and Trout as it did last year, with all due respect to Chris Davis.

Last year’s debate cast baseball traditionalists (pro-Cabrera) against proponents of Sabermetrics (pro-Trout). The pro-Cabrera crowd used the third baseman’s Triple Crown and sizable lead in the traditional stats as the reason why he is more deserving of the AL MVP award. The pro-Trout crowd cited his gigantic lead in Wins Above Replacement, which factored in less-obvious facets of the game like base running and defense as well as offense.

Baumann writes in his column:

As great as Cabrera’s Triple Crown season of 2012 was, his numbers this year are even better. Any argument against his American League MVP candidacy this season will require both a search party and considerable imagination.

With 48 games to go, Trout has already compiled 17 WAR (per Baseball Reference) in his career, good for 16th in Angels history.  He will likely move into at least 13th place by the time the season is over. Cabrera may well be putting up historically-great numbers — and he is — but so is Trout. And let’s not forget that Trout contributes in more ways than one, by running the bases well and playing decent defense. To ignore Trout’s greatness because of Cabrera is woefully myopic (and vice versa). We have more than enough space to appreciate both — and Chris Davis, too!

So, over the next three months, we’ll again be treated to a litany of columns about how numbers are scary and math is hard and you have to watch the games with your eyeballs instead of poring over a spreadsheet, and this is why Cabrera is great and Trout is not. Controversy is king. Acknowledging the greatness of more than one player at a time is, while the right thing to do, not very controversial.

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.