Orioles bring in Millwood to head young rotation

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It was a prerequisite to the Rangers’ signing of Rich Harden; Kevin Milllwood’s $12 million salary simply had to be stricken from the books.
To make it happen, the Rangers ate $3 million and sent the veteran to the Orioles for former closer Chris Ray and a player to be named.
Millwood is coming off his best season in his four with Texas, as he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts. It seems like he’s frequently dealt with leg problems in recent years, but he still averaged 31 starts per year as a Ranger. He’s at that same 31 even if you go back eight years.
And that’s the kind of stability the Orioles were looking to add to a rotation that’s only other sure thing is Jeremy Guthrie. They’ll accept a return to 4.00+ ERA from Millwood if he stays on 200-inning pace. And if some other young starters come along as hoped, he could be traded again at the deadline, most likely at a profit.
The key here is that the Orioles kept all of their promising young starters and instead parted with Ray, who will still intriguing but was also arbitration eligible and no longer prized by the team. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Ray saved 33 games in his first full season in the majors in 2006, but he required Tommy John surgery in Aug. 2007, missed all of 2008 and failed to bounce back as hoped last season. He ended up with a 7.27 ERA in 43 1/3 innings for the club.
The good news is that Ray didn’t leave much velocity on the table. He still throws 92-95 mph consistently. However, AL batters typically had a very easy time lining up his fastball last season, and his decision to rely more and more on his slider did him little good. A new pitching coach in Mike Maddux might be just what he needs to turn his career around and reemerge as a quality late-game reliever. Still, it’s at least as likely that he’ll be off the 40-man roster by June 1 as it is that he’ll be a major asset in the Texas pen.
In the end, both teams are getting what they wanted here. The Orioles identified Millwood as more desirable than the free agent options and got him without surrendering a key piece. The Rangers viewed Harden as a potential upgrade for their rotation and still saved $1.5 million with the rotation switch. Sounds like a good trade to me.

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.