As expected, Jose Reyes will make his return to the Mets on Saturday afternoon against the Nationals, leading off against left-hander John Lannan. It will be Reyes’ first game since May 20 of last season. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York just tweeted the lineup a little earlier, but after all the stops and starts over the past year, I’m not going to believe it until I actually see it with my own two eyes.
You’ll have to forgive me for this fanboy moment, but I might be more excited about Reyes’ return than I was for Opening Day. To truly understand why this is, you’ll have to remember what he has represented to Mets fans ever since his debut as a raw and unpolished talent at the age of 19: Hope.
In 2003, Reyes was a much-needed shot in the arm to a fanbase stuck rooting for an aging (and losing) team that included the likes of Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, Roger Cedeno, Al Leiter and John Franco. More broadly, while the above names were brought in via trade and free agency, Reyes was ours. A contrast. Homegrown. As a result, we’ve always taken a very specific form of pride when he scampers around the bases. We’ve also empathized with him through numerous health setbacks, from all the early problems with his legs to this most recent episode with his thyroid.
The impact of Reyes’ absence on the lineup over the past year has been patently obvious, but it’s also been a reminder of what he really means to the franchise. That being said, he’s no quick fix. He can’t be the Mets No. 2 starter, or their No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5, for that matter. But for one day, none of that stuff matters. And that’s a pretty powerful thing.
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.
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.