John Baker was limited to just 23 games last season due to right forearm and elbow injuries and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September. Position players can usually bounce back from surgery more quickly than pitchers, but because Baker is a catcher, the Marlins aren’t going to push him too soon.
With that in mind, Marlins president Larry Beinfest said earlier this month that he would like Baker to be a left-handed bat off the bench until he is ready to catch. Baker told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com today that he’s on board with the idea.
“In regards to being the lefty bat off the bench, I am all for it,” said Baker, who is doing his rehab work at his home in Northern California. “I just want to contribute to a winning team. I have a great example set by Wes Helms, and I will follow his lead throughout Spring Training and during the season. I am excited for the challenge of a new role.”
While Baker has only 108 plate appearances against southpaws in the big leagues, he has a .287/.368/.423 batting line and a 790 OPS against right-handed pitching. If healthy, he could outproduce the other current in-house candidates and available free agents.
Baker told Frisaro that he is currently hitting 75 flip tosses four times a week and plans to embark on a three-month throwing program in early January. Barring any setbacks, he expects to be ready for the start of the 2011 season.
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.