There was some question as to whether they’d get involved in big free agent game hunting, but according to Ken Rosenthal they are: the Cubs are pursuing both Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Well, either/or. They wouldn’t sign both of them because that would be silly.
I think the why of it is more interesting than the mere fact of it: Rosenthal says the Cubs are worried that the changes to the draft in the new collective bargaining agreement — caps on bonuses and heavy penalties for exceeding them — are going to make it harder to build through the draft. That, combined with the fact that teams lock up elite sluggers way earlier now than they used to means that such beasts will be hard to come by going forward.
Such a thing makes sure things more desirable and, while there is a question as to the appropriate length of a Pujols or Fielder deal, there is little question that for the next few years, each will continue to be an elite slugger.
As for the Cubs, Rosenthal says that, despite the age difference, they’re somewhat more interested in Pujols because of his defense and conditioning and whatnot. Whether they actually step up to join the Cardinals and Marlins in bidding on El Hombre is an open question, however.
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.