A reminder in the Wall Street Journal this morning that the Mets — playing solid enough baseball that talk of the wild card is not delusional — have some hard decisions to make. And not just with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. That’s because, as all Mets fans know, if Francisco Rodriguez finishes 55 games this year, his $17.5 million contract option for 2012 is triggered. And right now he’s on pace to finish 61.
On some level you have to think that Sandy Alderson was hoping that events would take care of themselves, and that either the Mets’ competitive situation would be such that there wouldn’t be as many save opportunities and/or meaningful games — or that K-Rod wouldn’t be effective enough — to where it would make baseball sense for him to finish 55. But that hasn’t been the case, and as of now there is no plausible reason to change his usage pattern.
So absent a serious July swoon, the Mets are kind of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they keep him, they’re on the hook for an intolerably large financial commitment to K-Rod next year (or a union grievance if they alter his usage pattern for purely financial reasons). If they shop him — again, assuming they’re still playing good baseball — they’re basically saying that 2011 doesn’t matter and will be accused by some of waving a white flag due to their serious lack of green.
I would still think the latter problem would be the better one to have. Haters (i.e. the talk radio and tabloid crowd) are gonna hate anyway. You gotta think long term and you can’t worry too much if someone gets some short term mileage off of some disingenuous white flag talk (disingenuous because the same ones who would offer it would go crazy if commitments to K-Rod prevent the Mets from making an offer to Reyes).
But that doesn’t make the short term any easier. And I’m kind of glad I’m not in Sandy Alderson’s shoes and don’t have to deal with the contractual mess that was left for him to clean up.
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.