He only represents the third-biggest available free agent at the moment, but Scott Boras still draws a crowd. This was the man holding court, as he does every year, right outside the media room.
It was hard to get close, but I heard him say something about 31 or 32 being young these days. Tune in the next time he has a 27 or a 28-year-old free agent and ask him again what prime baseball-playing age is. Gotta love Scotty.
The reason he was here: his client, Carlos Pena, just held a press conference in the wake of his signing with the Cubs. It was fairly straightforward. Lots of questions about why he was below the Mendoza Line this year (answer: I won’t be next year). Lots of questions about why he chose Chicago on this particular deal. He did not actually say “because I want to be like Adrian Beltre and have a big value-building year before I hit the market again next year,” though that was clearly what he was getting at in most of his answers. And for that very reason this seems like a really smart deal for Pena.
I’ve only been in close proximity to Pena a couple of times, but he’s pretty charming and seems like one of baseball’s brighter bulbs. And he dresses well. And, if asked, I bet he wouldn’t start spewing birther nonsense. Such a more reasonable day in here today than it was yesterday.
Only weird note in the whole thing: Pena started out by saying that he was a Cubs fan as a kid and that he “remembered watching George Bell.” George Bell played exactly one season for the Cubs: 1991. It was an OK, but by no means great season for Bell, after which he was traded to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa.
Must have been particularly memorable for Pena, I guess.
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.