Oliver not invaluable to Angels after all

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darren oliver.jpgSure, Darren Oliver was eligible for free agency again this winter, but the Angels could have essentially held him hostage for the second year in a row by offering him arbitration. It’s the tactic they used last year, knowing that Oliver, as a Type A free agent, wouldn’t have a market once teams had to give up a draft pick to sign him.
Oliver accepted arbitration then, re-signed for $3.665 million and posted a career-best ERA for a second straight season, finishing at 2.71 in 73 innings. He won five games, lost just once and recorded a 65/22 K/BB ratio. He also played a key role in all three wins over the Red Sox in the ALDS and gave up runs in just one of his eight postseason appearances overall.
Given that it worked out so well last year, the guess was that the Angels would offer arbitration one more time. However, they declined to do so before Tuesday’s deadline, a decision that placed Oliver on the open market for the first time in three years. Since anyone can sign him without surrendering a draft pick and he’ll likely want just a one-year deal — he’s indicated that he’d retire after next season — several contenders figure to pursue him.
It suggests the Angels financial picture is even murkier than was anticipated at season’s end. Oliver was certainly the team’s best reliever last year, but if he re-signed for $4 million, he’d be just the team’s fourth-highest paid reliever in 2010. Well, technically, third, since Justin Speier, who will earn $5.25 million, was already released in August. The Angels also owe Brian Fuentes $9 million and the rehabbing Scot Shields $5.35 million.
The Angels still have the most major league talent in the AL West, but the bad contracts they’ve handed out suddenly seem to have caught up to them. They’ll be the division favorites in 2010 regardless, but GM Tony Reagins will have quite a challenge on his hands to keep the Halos on top in 2011 and beyond.

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.