Dodgers, A.J. Ellis avoid arbitration with one-year deal

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The Dodgers and catcher A.J. Ellis have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.55 million contract, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Ellis requested $4.6 million and was offered $3 million from the Dodgers when arbitration figures were exchanged earlier this month. The two sides settled for $250,000 under the midpoint, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears that he’ll have the chance to make up the difference if he reaches bonuses based on games started and plate appearances. The 32-year-old backstop was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and remains under team control though 2016.

Ellis has compiled a .255/.347/.390 batting line over the past two seasons as the Dodgers’ regular catcher. He has thrown out 37 percent of attempted basestealers during that time.

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.