Cut loose by the Mets last week despite still being owed $6 million for this season, Luis Castillo has reportedly signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies.
World-renowned Castillo hater Jon Heyman naturally hates the move and an awful lot of Phillies fans seem to agree, but given the injuries to Chase Utley and Placido Polanco they can certainly use some infield depth and as non-guaranteed, $400,000 investments go Castillo is a perfectly reasonable pickup.
He’s a shell of the player Omar Minaya traded for and then signed to a four-year, $25 million deal and the deterioration of Castillo’s once-excellent speed has magnified his career-long lack of power, but last season he drew more walks (39) than strikeouts (25) while posting a .337 on-base percentage that was solidly above the NL average of .328 and got on base at a .366 clip during his entire four-year run with the Mets.
There are far worse backup infielders and the Phillies currently have Wilson Valdez penciled into the Opening Day lineup despite his career-high offensive numbers being no better than Castillo’s worst. If the Phillies deem Castillo washed up they can cut bait and essentially be out nothing while the Mets pay him $1 million a month. And if he still has a little gas left in the tank, they added some solid infield depth at basically no cost.
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.