Vladimir Guerrero made a rare appearance in the outfield last night because the Rangers were playing under NL rules in San Francisco, but after multiple miscues defensively manager Ron Washington has decided to bench the nine-time All-Star and former MVP for Game 2 tonight.
David Murphy replaces Guerrero in the lineup and will start in left field, with Nelson Cruz moving from left field to right field. Cruz will also take over for Guerrero in the cleanup spot behind Josh Hamilton.
And it’s absolutely the right move.
Guerrero didn’t just look bad in right field last night, he looked horrendous. It was sad to watch. Plus, it’s not clear that Guerrero is even a better option than Murphy offensively at this point, at least against a right-handed pitcher like tonight’s Giants starter, Matt Cain.
In his prime Guerrero was a middle-of-the-order monster regardless of the handedness of the pitcher, but this season at age 35 he hit .287/.328/.482 versus righties. That production is right around average for a corner outfielder, which makes Guerrero solidly below average once his defense is factored in. He also struggled overall in the second half and has produced a measly .601 OPS in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the left-handed-hitting Murphy batted .298/.368/.479 versus righties this season, which is 37 points of OPS better than Guerrero. Murphy is also an above-average defender. Based purely on current ability rather than reputations and names my guess is that Ron Washington would have made this move for Game 1, but he at least deserves some credit for not making the same mistake twice.
And perhaps Guerrero will have a chance to make his presence felt with a big at-bat off the bench.
The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.
Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.
The team has yet to confirm the deal.
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.