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Last three AL pennant winners and the St. Louis Cardinals get competitive balance picks

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Competitive Balance draft picks are additional draft picks, occurring at the end of the first and second rounds of the Rule 4 draft each summer, given to clubs with the 10 lowest revenues and in the 10 smallest markets. They used to be determined by lottery, but now, with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they are determined via formula in which revenue and winning percentage are mashed up and an order is determined ranking the allegedly poor sisters of Major League Baseball.

I say allegedly because, with scant few exceptions, we have no idea what teams make and how bad off they are financially. We can guess, with some degree of certainty, to be fair, which teams are worse off than others, but we really don’t know. I also say it because since the Competitive Balance picks thing was put into place, there are always a couple of head-scratching inclusions in baseball’s draft pick charity program.

Via MLB.com, here is this year’s Competitive Balance draft order. Group A will pick at the end of the first round and before the second round. Group B will pick after the second round and before the third. These picks are in addition to whatever picks they will get based on their finish in the 2016 standings. The number is where the pick appears in the draft overall:

Round A
31. Tampa Bay Rays
32. Cincinnati Reds
33. Oakland Athletics
34. Milwaukee Brewers
35. Minnesota Twins
36. Miami Marlins

Round B
67. Arizona Diamondbacks
68. San Diego Padres
69. Colorado Rockies
70. Cleveland Indians
71. Kansas City Royals
72. Pittsburgh Pirates
73. Baltimore Orioles
74. St. Louis Cardinals

As has been mentioned many, many times over the years, it’s weird to see the Cardinals here. Yes, St. Louis is small, but the Cardinals are, without question, a team with large, regional appeal which makes a lot of money and which, obviously, has had tremendous success over the years. Theo Epstein once famously groused about it, saying that St. Louis is “probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of (an) annual gift.” He has a point.

It’s also odd to see both the Indians and the Royals there, given that they have combined to win the last three American League pennants, with the Royals winning the 2015 World Series. Not that I will not grant that both of them are at a financial disadvantage to many other teams in baseball.

But that’s the thing, right? The financial disadvantage? If that’s the issue being addressed here, it makes little sense to deal with it via extra draft picks because the draft is the one place where clubs aren’t at a tremendous disadvantage compared to others. Draft pick bonuses are slotted now, capping the amount any one team can pay a player, eliminating the old practice of draft picks signaling to poorer teams not to pick them. Beyond that, the draft represents a very low percentage of a team’s overall outlay for talent and thus is one place where low revenue/small market teams are least disadvantaged compared to their bigger richer peers. If anything, these guys could use straight cash for free agents or operating expenses, not extra draft picks.

Oh well. It’s the system we have.

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.