Francisco Rodriguez

How will the Mets handle Francisco Rodriguez this season?

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We’re probably getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with this topic, but it’s a worthwhile discussion on a slow news day.

The Mets will get plenty of payroll relief when Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo come off the books after this season, but the status of Francisco Rodriguez could be much trickier. His $17.5 million option for 2012 will vest if he finishes just 55 games in 2011.

While last season was the first time since 2005 that Rodriguez didn’t finish 55 games, he almost certainly would have gotten there if it wasn’t for the incident with his father-in-law and subsequent season-ending thumb surgery. With a 2.20 ERA and his best strikeout rate since 2007, K-Rod was pitching quite well at the time. He was at 46 games finished when he played his last game on August 14.

The union filed a grievance against the Mets after they placed Rodriguez on the disqualified list without pay. The two sides eventually reached a settlement where the Mets were allowed to keep the $3.14 million they would have otherwise paid him for the rest of the season. The Mets originally saw his thumb injury as an opportunity to void his entire contract, so I can’t help but view their efforts in a new light given what we’ve learned about the Wilpons in the past week.

I’m not sure if Rodriguez’s contract situation will affect the way the Mets use him this season, but Sandy Alderson doesn’t seem like the type of general manager who would want a $17.5 million closer on his payroll in the first place. This could open the door for the Mets to possibly use him in unconventional ways, perhaps as a “relief ace,” as opposed to your atypical closer, but they will have to be careful. With the Mets on shaky financial ground, you can bet that the MLBPA will be on the lookout for any funny business.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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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.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.