Mike Napoli continuing his spectacular season in the playoffs has led to the Angels being criticized for trading him in a deal for Vernon Wells and manager Mike Scioscia being criticized for never being the biggest Napoli fan.
Scioscia got defensive when that topic was raised during a radio interview yesterday, saying:
We did not butt heads, that’s absolutely false. Mike had to work on stuff that didn’t come naturally to him, more so than other catchers who maybe do it more naturally. … I think we have to wait a couple years first. Right now, it’s obvious. Mike Napoli is having an incredible run with Texas. He was certainly capable of doing what he did and we valued him. The thing that cracks me up is when people say we didn’t think he was any good. We played him a lot more than Texas has this year over his career with us.
Napoli, of course, had a much different take on his time with Scioscia and the Angels, telling the Dallas Morning News earlier this season:
I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder to see if I was doing things right. I had “bad hands.” I was so worried about my setup and the mechanics all the time. I learned a lot. I learned a lot of what I do there, but playing there just wasn’t much fun.
Scioscia often preferred Jeff Mathis’ inept bat and good glove over Napoli’s slugging, and while some of what the manager says about Napoli’s time with the Angels is surely true there’s no getting around that fact. Now that the Angels have parted ways with general manager Tony Reagins there are tons of reports about how Scioscia has really been running things for years and the perception–right or wrong–that he helped push Napoli out of town isn’t going away any time soon.
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.