We continue our look at what each team — and their fans — have to be thankful for this winter:
Texas Rangers: For the fates, good karma or whatever the hell it was that allowed this team to weather their manager’s cocaine revelations and a steel cage match of a team sale and bankruptcy without it tearing them asunder. Special thanks to the Mariners, for willingly trading an ace within the division and Major League Baseball, which OK’d the deal even though they were subsidizing the Rangers at the time.
Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden, who stood bravely in defense of the A’s against those who would tread where opposing teams should not tread. To be honest, though, not a ton to be thankful for. Yes, there’s some good young pitching, but it’s getting no help from the team’s owner who seems to be nickeling and diming his way through the baseball portion of his life, or from Major League Baseball, which couldn’t leave the team in an Oakland-San Jose limbo any longer unless it bent the space-time continuum to make history flow backwards. There are few beasts in this world for whom I feel more sorry than die-hard A’s fans. They deserve better, and they’re not getting it.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Arte Morneo’s anger. It reportedly has him prepared to open the checkbook this winter in pursuit of Carl Crawford and maybe even more. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but when he bought this team he had it in his head that he was going to win all the damn time. A year of not doing it is probably a great thing for Angels fans over the long term.
Seattle Mariners: The sweet, merciful kiss of the season’s death on October 3rd, which put an end to their suffering. They can also be thankful that even if Jack Zduriencik signed Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee to league minimum deals, traded for Justin Upton and Zack Greinke and somehow managed to create a time machine through which he brought back Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez circa 1996, no one would have any crazy expectations for this team. Not after last winter, anyway, which leaves the possibility that fans will be pleasantly surprised at what happens in 2011.
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.