The case against agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, who have been accused of illegally smuggling baseball players into the United States from Cuba, has gone to the jury.
Deliberations will begin today, following six weeks of testimony in which prosecutors claimed that Hernandez and Estrada oversaw a criminal network aimed at getting players to the U.S. where they could sign lucrative contracts. Prosecutors claim that the men placed the players in harm’s way and caused them to sign away an inordinate amount of their future earnings under duress. Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Leonys Martin of the Seattle Mariners were among the players allegedly so affected, each of whom testified.
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.
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.