We’ve heard so much about viral sensation Yoenis Cespedes in the media this month that another talented Cuban outfielder is flying under the radar. However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t generated plenty of buzz among MLB front-office types.
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Cubs are among the teams who have expressed interest in 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler. Similar to Cespedes, Soler defected from Cuba and is currently working out for teams in the Dominican Republic. The Marlins and Rangers have already checked him out in person.
Soler isn’t anywhere close to major-league ready like Cespedes, but Frisaro heard from a scout that he boasts serious power potential and is only slightly smaller than Mike Stanton, who stands checks in at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. Oh boy. Imagine these two in the very same lineup someday. I can hear the nicknames already.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote earlier this week that Soler is expected to receive a contract in the neighborhood of the three-year, $15.5 million deal the Rangers gave Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin earlier this year.
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.