A day after placing Rick Ankiel on the disabled list and calling up Roger Bernadina, the Nationals added an outfielder in a trade with the Royals, picking up Gregor Blanco for a player to be named.
Blanco was immediately assigned to Triple-A Syracuse.
The 27-year-old Blanco did solid work for the Braves and Royals last season, hitting .283/.360/.367 with 11 steals in 237 at-bats. However, Kansas City declined to carry him out of spring training after signing a couple of other ex-Braves, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, over the winter.
Assigned to Triple-A Omaha after clearing waivers at the end of March, Blanco had struggled this season, hitting .196/.284/.286 in 56 at-bats. He did have 17 walks and nine steals for the Storm Chasers.
Unfortunately, that 570 OPS fits right in at Syracuse. Corey Brown, the Nationals’ lone actual outfield prospect in the upper minors, is hitting just .202/.280/.345 in 84 at-bats. The team’s other two outfielders, Jeff Frazier (.143/.196/.238 in 105 AB) and Boomer Whiting (.167/.250/.185 in 54 AB), were playing even worse.
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.