After an offseason full of speculation about whether the White Sox would move Chris Sale into the rotation or keep him in the bullpen the drama is already over, as general manager Ken Williams announced that Sale will be used as a reliever.
Making that decision now is interesting because part of the reason why Sale moving to the rotation was considered a legitimate option stemmed from Jake Peavy’s uncertain health status. Peavy reportedly looked and felt good while throwing today, but clearly it’s too early to say when he’ll be ready to rejoin the rotation, let alone if he’ll be ready for April starts.
By making the call on Sale before knowing Peavy’s status the White Sox are seemingly saying he’s simply better off in the bullpen, where he dominated in his debut with a 1.93 ERA, .185 opponents’ batting average, and 32 strikeouts in 23 innings. However, he was a starter in college before going 13th overall in last June’s draft and the White Sox previously have indicated they feel Sale has a future atop the rotation.
That may still be true, but much like Neftali Feliz in Texas the decision to use Sale as a reliever in his debut and then keep him in the bullpen for his first full season makes it significantly less likely that he’ll ever get a shot in the rotation, particularly if he thrives as a reliever. I’m a big believer in giving young pitchers every opportunity to fill a 200-inning role before moving them into a 65-inning role for the rest of their career, but it’s awfully tempting to keep someone in a job they’ve performed extremely well in rather than taking the chance that they won’t have the same success in a different gig.
Most top starters could be elite relievers, but most elite relievers could not be top starters. It’s looking more and more like we may never find out with Sale.
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.