Pirates shed payroll, re-invest in draft picks

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Much was made of the Pirates dumping a bunch of salary at the trading deadline, as they parted with relatively high-priced veterans Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, John Grabow, and Adam LaRoche after previously dealing away Nate McLouth and Eric Hinske. Together those moves saved the team $7.3 million from the Opening Day payroll of $55 million, which didn’t sit well with some fans.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly even felt the need to defend the organization by explaining that “the savings are not nearly as large as some believe.” By itself slashing payroll is something that fans should absolutely question, particularly when the team involved is in the midst of a 17th straight losing season and has a nine-year-old ballpark that in theory was created to help support larger salaries. However, in this case the Pirates turned the money saved by dealing veterans into bonuses for hard-to-sign draft picks.
After paying the MLB-recommended slot price of $2.5 million for No. 4 overall pick Tony Sanchez, the Prices went significantly over slot to sign sixth-round pick Zach Von Rosenberg for $1.2 million and eighth-round pick Colton Cain for $1.1 million. In all they handed out $3.4 million to four high-school pitchers who dropped to them because of concerns about their bonus demands and ended up spending a grand total of $8 million on this year’s draft class.
Obviously only time will tell whether those above-slot signings will pay off, but investing $8 million in a bunch of high-upside prospects has a much higher likelihood of turning the Pirates into a long-term winning team than spending the same money on guys like Sanchez, LaRoche, Wilson, and Grabow. If the goal is to build a consistent winner rather than simply snapping the streak of losing seasons, Pirates management made the right call.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.