Mets' Reyes could bat third… for a little while

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Mets manager Jerry Manuel has already come up with his first big idea of the spring; he wants to bat usual leadoff man Jose Reyes third, though only until Carlos Beltran returns from knee surgery.
“Reyes, in my opinion, has evolved,” Manuel told the New York Post “I could really stretch our lineup out if he is able to handle that spot.”
By stretching out the lineup, Manuel means he could place his lousier hitters at both the top and bottom of the order, rather than congregate them all in the fifth-through-eighth spots.
Reyes told SNY that he would be OK with the idea:
“Whatever spot he puts me in the lineup, I’m going to be able to do it. Whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it. So let’s see what happens. He said when Beltran comes back, I’m going to be the leadoff guy again. I don’t know if he’s sure right now. We just talked about it yesterday. He doesn’t know if it’s going to happen or not. He’s going to think about it… He’s the boss. Whatever he says I’ll do it. I just want to be on the field playing baseball.”
I naturally assumed that David Wright, the best OBP guy on the team, would bat third with Beltran sidelined. However, it looks like Manuel still wants him in the fifth spot. As things stand now, this could be the Mets’ Opening Day lineup, along with each player’s career OBP:
1. Angel Pagan – CF – .331
2. Luis Castillo – 2B – .369
3. Jose Reyes – SS – .337
4. Jason Bay – LF – .376
5. David Wright – 3B – .389
6. Jeff Francoeur – RF – .311
7. David Murphy – 1B – .331
8. Omir Santos – C – .290
Reyes’ career mark doesn’t describe the player he is now — he’s been between .350 and .360 each of the last four seasons (including the 36 games last year before he got hurt). But to say that he’s evolved is baffling. He took a huge step forward in 2006, but he hasn’t gotten any better at all since. There’s little if anything to be gained by moving him down to the third spot for a month, and it actually could spell disaster if Reyes thinks it means he should focus more on hitting for power than getting on base.

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.