UPDATE: The Diamondbacks have confirmed their interest in Willis, according to Gilbert.
“We are at least considering him,” D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes
8:55 PM: According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks have had discussions with the Tigers about acquiring Dontrelle Willis.
Willis, 28, was designated for assignment by the Tigers on Sunday after posting a 4.98 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and a 33/29 K/BB ratio over his first nine appearances (eight starts) this season. The enigmatic left-hander was just 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA during his disappointing tenure in Detroit, averaging a disturbing 8.2 BB/9 over 101 innings.
According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Willis’ agent Matt Sosnick said that Arizona is one of the places his client “would rather play.” In fact, Willis and his wife were already in the process of buying a home in the Phoenix area. More broadly, Sosnick said “Out West in the National League would be his
choice.” He’s not the first pitcher to look out west for revitalization.
The Tigers have a little over a week to work something out, but whether they decide to release him, trade him or put him on waivers, they’ll be responsible for virtually all of his $12 million contract for this season.
As for the Diamondbacks, they have apparently seen enough of Billy Buckner that they feel it’s worth sending a marginal prospect the Tigers’ way to try to catch lightning in a bottle here. I don’t have much optimism that he can turn things around in the desert, but maybe his bat (eight career home runs) can keep them in a few games.
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.