For a long time Joakim Soria was a rare bright spot on terrible Royals teams, closing out their few late-inning leads with dominance, but now that the Royals are playing a little better and the influx of young talent has started migrating to Kansas City he’s struggling.
Soria blew a save and took a loss yesterday, allowing three runs to the Orioles as his ERA ballooned to 5.18. Early season ERA figures can be misleading, particularly for relievers with just 15-20 innings, but Soria’s other numbers paint a similarly gloomy picture.
Prior to this season he struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings, but that has dropped to 6.1 per nine innings so far this year. Similarly his walk rate has risen from 2.5 per nine innings to 4.7 per nine innings. And he’s allowed opponents to hit .268 with a .774 OPS after previously holding them to .197 with a .546 OPS.
Twenty bad innings hardly means Soria is washed up at age 27, but his ERA rising from 2.01 to 5.18 while his secondary numbers all collapse and his average fastball velocity falls from 91.9 miles per hour to 90.3 mph is worrisome for an improving team that may soon have a whole lot more late-inning leads for their stud closer to protect. Remarkably, if you remove Soria’s numbers the rest of the Royals’ bullpen has a 3.79 ERA.
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.