Because he’s currently turning teams away. Bill Ladson of MLB.com tweeted this morning that the veteran right-hander declined a deal with the Nationals, while Ken Gurnick of MLB.com tells us this evening that the Dodgers aren’t willing to sign him at his current asking price.
Of course, this probably all comes down to finding a guaranteed major league contract. His agent Alan Hendricks is no doubt talking up Looper’s 14 wins from last season, as he should, but we all know better. The 35-year-old posted a 5.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 34 starts last season, while striking out a meager 100 batters in 194 2/3 innings (4.62 K/9 – sixth lowest in the majors among starters with at least 150 IP).
Looper has earned the reputation as a groundball pitcher, but has seen his flyball rate increase sharply since transitioning to the starting rotation. It’s unlikely he gives up as many home runs this season as he did last, but he’s still at the mercy of the players behind him. If a guaranteed contract is what he seeks, he might be best served to play the role of ambulance-chaser, waiting for the first sign of injury in a team’s starting rotation.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.