UPDATE: Done deal. 5 years, $125 million. It kicks in starting in 2012. This seems like a really bad, really unnecessary move for the Phillies. More later on this, of course.
2:20 P.M.: Part of what we do here is pass along rumors. When it’s one that I’m really dubious about, I make extra sure to put the little “Rumor:” disclaimer in the headline just so you don’t think I’m trafficking in complete and utter nonsense with the intent to mislead. I try to keep my trafficking in complete and utter nonsense is totally above-board.
With that disclaimer out of the way, Jim Salisbury of CSN-Philly is reporting that the Phillies are poised to sign Ryan Howard to a five-year extension.
This makes little sense to me as Howard is signed through 2011, when he’s going to make $20 million. Howard has admirably transformed himself from a big ol’ slugger to a smaller, more athletic slugger who is no longer a horror show at first base, but he’s still a big guy on the wrong side of 30 who could very easily fall off a cliff before he’s 35 as so many sluggers who fit his profile do. It would be puzzling at best for the Phillies to make a five year commitment to that type of player, especially when they have more pressing contractual issues such as Jayson Werth.
I don’t have enough experience going through Jim Salisbury’s rumor history to know if it’s reliable or not. I’ll note that he was out front of the Roy Halladay-to-Philly rumors last fall, and he was the first to report that the Phillies were talking to Shane Victorino about a contract extension. Still, this one seems far-fetched to me.
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.