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Athletics sign Norge Ruiz to minor league deal

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Right-hander Norge Ruiz is set to receive a $2 million signing bonus from the Athletics, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. The club signed the 22-year-old Cuban defector to a minor league deal on Friday and could see the right-hander in the rotation sometime next season.

Per Sanchez, Ruiz is ranked No. 3 on Major League Baseball’s top 30 list of international prospects. He last appeared with the Sabuesos de Holguin and Ganaderos de Camaguey in the 2014 Cuban National Series, pitching to a combined 3.26 ERA with a 6.9 SO/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 110 1/3 innings. While he’s had difficulty with his command, he features a fastball that tops out around 94 m.p.h. and an impressive variety of off-speed pitches that should round out his repertoire when he makes it to the majors.

Athletics’ assistant general manager Dan Feinstein had positive things to say about the righty (via Slusser), who possesses the “makings of a quality major-league starter” and wields a big league change-up, another pitch that has earned Ruiz top billing among international prospects this year. Baseball America’s Ben Badler points out that the prospect comes with an actual price tag of $4 million, which could still be a steal if Ruiz lives up to the hype:

His bonus is $2 million, and since the A’s will have to pay a 100 percent overage tax for exceeding their bonus pool, the total cost for the team will be $4 million.

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.