The “Yasiel Puig is a cancer” narrative is back for the new year

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Bill Plaschke is back to his favorite beat: Yasiel Puig is out of control! He needs a major attitude adjustment! Someone think of the children! Too much there to even begin blockquoting the best bits, so go give it a read.

The best part of it all is Plaschke’s dismissal of anything that interferes with or contradicts his angle of attack. Manager Don Mattingly says “Puig and I are fine,” Plaschke says no they’re not. He accuses the front office of putting a leash on Mattingly’s comments critical of Puig, the front office strenuously denies it, and Plaschke says he doesn’t believe them. Plaschke says veterans are getting angry at Puig, but doesn’t get a quote to that effect, even anonymously.

Which isn’t to say that Plaschke’s broad points are wrong. I think it’s pretty clear that Puig has maturity issues. I also think it’s pretty clear that, at times, he has gotten on Mattingly’s nerves. I find it funny, though, that Plaschke’s general point — Puig is valuable when he’s hitting but isn’t when he’s not — is some unique or newsworthy point. Or why that analysis isn’t made about every other player, for whom it is also true. Or how Puig’s problems are different or more extreme than any other famously frustrating personalities in baseball. And, with a big, big respectful nod to Jorge Arangure’s column from last October, there is no escaping the fact that almost every controversy about deportment in baseball involves Latino players allegedly doing things the wrong way. And being told by non-Latinos that they need to shape the hell up. It’s pretty damn old.

It would be great for the Dodgers if Yasiel Puig immediately turned into Stan Musial, personality-wise. But it would also be great if, in the highly likely event that does not happen, someone actually tries to figure out if maybe Puig’s presence on the Dodgers isn’t a net positive. Or, at the very least, makes an effort to determine how negative his problems truly are to a professional baseball team rather than merely posit that the guy is a cancer.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.