Bill Ladson of MLB.com and Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com have both written about the Nationals’ catching situation recently while coming to more or less the same conclusion: Jesus Flores will be shopped heavily if he looks healthy during spring training.
Flores was once the Nationals’ long-term answer behind the plate and was hitting .301 with an .877 OPS through 29 games as a 24-year-old in 2009, but he hasn’t played since because of significant shoulder problems and in the meantime the Nationals signed Ivan Rodriguez to replace him as the starter and traded for Wilson Ramos to be their new catcher of the future.
First, here’s Goessling’s take on where Flores stands in Washington:
They’ll definitely be trying to show Flores is healthy in spring training, in the event they could flip him for a prospect, or use him as their second catcher if Ramos draws interest. It’s more likely they’d move Flores than Ramos, but you never know.
And now here’s Ladson’s take:
He will battle for one of the spots behind the plate, but it would not come as a surprise if the Nationals use Flores as a trade chip during spring training.
Down the stretch last season the Nationals had Rodriguez and Ramos split time behind the plate and that seems likely to be the arrangement this season as well, so if they can get a good return for Flores expect general manager Mike Rizzo to pull the trigger. And even with his uncertain health status, as a 26-year-old catcher with a decent bat Flores should have some suitors.
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.