The Orioles are in the lead in the “Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes”

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When trade talks or free agent talks start people always act like it’s a race or a contest in which everyone is competing on some open and level field. One team is gaining, one is behind, another is coming up from the outside. Bah, save it for the Belmont Stakes. Real trade and free agent discussions have as much to do with opportunity and timing than anything else. Most big moves come together rather swiftly. It’s less horse racing and more UFC, in which one solid punch can knock the other guys out.

Which leads us to Jeff Samardzija, who is no doubt the biggest name on the trading block this season. Teams always want pitching, even in this pitcher-friendly era, and Samardzija is a surer bet than a lot of guys to put in some good service time as a rent-an-ace. To that end, Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reports that the Orioles “appear to be the leading team of interest in the Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes.”

Which makes sense, as the O’s could use big league ready pitching and happen to have a handful of pitching prospects the Cubs might like, such as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez.

So a trade could happen. But when it happens, it won’t feature a mad dash from the quarter pole to the finish. It’ll just happen.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

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.