With Chris Capuano off the board, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins have turned their attention to two alternatives: Jeff Francis and Edwin Jackson.
While one is a rather predictable target, the other is a bit of a surprise.
Francis, who turns 31 in January, posted a 4.82 ERA and 91/39 K/BB ratio over 183 innings with the Royals this season. The southpaw averaged a career-low 4.5 K/9 while the velocity on his fastball (84.7) was down a couple ticks from his career average. The good news is that his shoulder wasn’t an issue and he managed to make 30 starts for the first time since 2007. However, he may have to settle for a one-year deal this winter.
The Twins have only had initial talks with the agent for Francis, but they should have further discussions at the Winter Meetings next week. The Rockies have also expressed interest in bringing him back, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
As for Jackson, Morosi acknowledges that he appears to be more of a longshot. The 28-year-old right-hander is one of the top options in a market lacking in quality starting pitchers, so with any luck, he should be able to find a three-year deal. Throw in the fact that Jackson is represented by Scott Boras and the Twins have already said that they plan to cut payroll relative to 2011, and it’s likely he ends up elsewhere.
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.