Report: Phillies and Orioles have discussed Jonathan Papelbon

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The quickly souring four-year $50 million deal the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon two years ago, and the Orioles’ recent fiasco with Grant Balfour  may make the two teams unexpected trade partners. MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Phillies and Orioles have discussed a trade involving closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Kubatko adds that the Phillies would have to eat “a lot” of Papelbon’s remaining $26 million over the next two seasons. Papelbon also has an option for 2016 worth $13 million which vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 alone, or combines to finish 100 games in 2014 and ’15, so it could be $39 million if Papelbon stays healthy and productive.

Since becoming a Phillie after the 2011 season, Papelbon has posted a 2.67 ERA and saved 67 games, striking out 149 and unintentionally walking 27 in 131.2 innings of work. However, there are warning signs that should concern any team looking to acquire the 33-year-old right-hander. According to FanGraphs, Papelbon’s fastball averaged 95 MPH in 2011, but dropped to 93.8 and 92.0 in the following two seasons. As a result, his strikeout rate declined from 34 percent in 2011 and 32 percent in 2012 to a mere 22 percent this past season.

If $15 million over two years is too much for a supposedly injury-prone closer for the Orioles, it’s hard to imagine how much of Papelbon’s contract the Phillies could actually eat to make him in any way more attractive to the O’s than Balfour.

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.