Carl Crawford’s ankle injury led to Matt Kemp coming off the bench and rejoining the Dodgers’ starting lineup, but now that Crawford is ready to return it sounds like he’ll be the one on the bench most days.
Don Mattingly has gone with Kemp in left field, Andre Ethier in center field, and Yasiel Puig in right field while also giving occasional starts to Scott Van Slyke, and the manager told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that he “is not really planning any big changes” with Crawford set to return as soon as tomorrow.
Mattingly went on to say that “everybody is happier … they don’t have to come to the ballpark looking for the lineup card.” He also indicated that Crawford playing a position other than left field isn’t really an option, and Kemp has started all but one of the past 39 games there while hitting .289 with a .781 OPS. By comparison, Crawford hit just .267 with a .693 OPS in 44 games before the injury.
Circumstances can change quickly, of course, and it only takes one injury for Crawford to be back in the lineup as a regular. He’s also making $20 million this season and is owed another $62 million from 2015-2017, so one way or another a long-term spot on the Dodgers’ bench probably isn’t in the cards.
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 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.