Tim Wakefield

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Best of the rest

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Starting Monday, I’ll be spending the week counting down next winter’s top 111 free agents. First, though, here are some notable names failing to make the cut.

(All ages as of April 1, 2012)

Vicente Padilla (33 – Dodgers): No. 112 on the list. Pitching out of the pen for the first time since 2001, Padilla was briefly the Dodgers’ closer this year and picked up three saves and five holds in nine appearances. Unfortunately, his season is already over due to neck surgery.

Tim Wakefield (45 – Red Sox): If he decides he wants to continue his career, then he’ll be in the top 111 come November. Filling in for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wakefield has gotten the chance recently to show that he’s still a perfectly viable bottom-of-the-rotation guy, even at age 44. He’s 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA.

Chris Young (32 – Mets): Had a 1.88 ERA in four starts before his latest shoulder injury knocked him out for the season. He’ll be signing another incentive-laden deal this winter.

Bill Hall (32 – Giants): The Astros gave him $3 million to play second base, but he flopped, hitting .224/.272/.340 in 147 at-bats. Now he’s with the Giants trying to rebuild his value.

Mike Cameron (39 – Red Sox): Boston hoped a healthy Cameron would be one of the game’s best fourth outfielders, but he’s hitting just .157 in 83 at-bats. He could opt for retirement after the season.

Mike Gonzalez (33 – Orioles): Gonzalez fanned 90 batters out of the pen for the Braves in 2009, causing the Orioles to sign him as a closer. In the year-plus since, he’s recorded just one save and amassed a 5.29 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.

Brandon Webb (32 – Rangers): After missing more than two years due to shoulder problems, Webb has progressed to the point at which he’s now making rehab starts for the Rangers’ Double-A club. If he’s able to contribute in the second half, he’ll shoot up the list quickly.

Eric Hinske (34 – Braves): Hinske is slumping in an extended role of late, but he’s a rock solid bench player. He’s hit 19 homers in 430 at-bats for the Braves the last two years.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (35 – Nationals): A useful spare part who has received too much playing time the last two years, Hairston can start at any of six positions without hurting a team. He’s hitting .249/.321/.350 in 177 at-bats for the Nationals this season.

Casey Kotchman (29 – Rays): Kotchman has quietly hit .339/.400/.468 in 171 at-bats since getting a chance to overtake Dan Johnson as the Rays’ first baseman.

Joel Zumaya (27 – Tigers): Zumaya had a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings before suffering a broken elbow on the mound last year. He is questionable to return this season after a follow-up surgery in May. If he misses the entire season, then he’ll probably have to settle for a minor league deal this winter.

Omar Vizquel (44 – White Sox): Still doing a nice job as a utilityman for the White Sox, Vizquel is hitting .279/.312/.360 in 86 at-bats this season. Maybe this will finally be it for him, but he hasn’t given any indication that he’s done.

Jack Wilson (34 – Mariners): Injuries have robbed Wilson of some of his defensive abilities, and it’s not like he can make up for it with his bat. Now buried on the Seattle bench by the Dustin Ackley callup, he badly needs a trade.

Jack Cust (33 – Mariners): Cust doesn’t seem long for Seattle with his playing time starting to go to Mike Carp. He’s still getting on base, but he’s gone from hitting 33 homers in 2008 to just two in 182 at-bats so far this season.

Yuniesky Betancourt (30 – Brewers)*: The Brewers won’t be picking up Betancourt’s $6 million option, and it’s possible that no one will want him as a starting shortstop next year. He’s hitting just .227/.251/.330 at the moment.

Carlos Guillen (36 – Tigers): Guillen, who has yet to play this season, is now hoping to return from knee surgery after the All-Star break. With his four-year, $48 million contract coming to an end, he could possibly have a nice run as a role player in the right situation. He just needs to stay healthy.

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.