UPDATE: Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times confirms that the deal is done.
12:10 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Angels are on the verge of trading catcher Jeff Mathis to the Blue Jays for left-hander Brad Mills.
The Angels acquired Chris Iannetta from the Rockies earlier this week, which made Mathis a virtual lock to be non-tendered. The 28-year-old backstop stands to make close to $2 million in his second year of arbitration, so it’s a wonder why the Blue Jays didn’t just wait to see if he hit the free agent market. I could be wrong here, but I can’t imagine teams were falling over themselves for a .194 career hitter whose defensive contributions can be overstated at times. Anyway, he’ll serve as the backup to J.P. Arencibia next season.
Mills, who turns 27 in March, has an 8.57 ERA and 45/31 K/BB ratio over 48 1/3 innings in brief stints with the Blue Jays over the past three seasons. He has regularly posted impressive numbers in the minor leagues, but barely cracks the mid-80s with his fastball. Perhaps he’ll have a better chance to succeed in the more favorable pitching environment in Anaheim. Hey, at least Dipoto got something of value in return for someone who was going to be non-tendered. That’s a win in my book.
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.