Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella breaks finger, out six weeks

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It’s a tough blow for a 27-year-old who probably isn’t in line for many chances to establish himself in the big leagues.
Tommy Manzella, who took over as the Astros’ shortstop when Miguel Tejada was allowed to leave over the winter, will miss six weeks after being diagnosed with a fractured left index finger. The team called up Oswaldo Navarro to replace him.
Manzella’s calling card is his glove, but he did improve to .289/.339/.417 in 580 at-bats in Triple-A last year, giving the Astros some hope that he wouldn’t be a complete offensive zero this season.
Unfortunately, he’s regressed substantially. Manzella was hitting just .212/.259/.254 in 189 at-bats. Not only wasn’t he showing any power, but he wasn’t even making contact, having struck out 57 times.
The Astros will use Navarro and Geoff Blum at shortstop for now.
Navarro debuted in the majors with the Mariners as a 21-year-old in 2006, but he hadn’t been back since until appearing in three games with Houston last month. He was hitting .298/.400/.466 while splitting time between short and second for Triple-A Round Rock, so he’s worthy of the opportunity. If he hits, then Manzella might not have a job awaiting him when he returns.
Blum, of course, offers oodles of veteran presence to go along with a 555 OPS in 115 at-bats this season and a third baseman’s range. With any luck, he’ll remain on the bench while Navarro is given a chance to seize the job.

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.