7:13 p.m. EST update: Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports that the Astros tried to interest the Indians in Carlos Lee, but that even covering half of his $18 million salary wasn’t enough to tempt Cleveland. Lee does offer a solid right-handed bat, but he’d have to come in at significantly less than $9 million to be attractive. Willingham isn’t likely to get any more than that annually, and Derrek Lee could probably be had for $7 million-$8 million.
With the price tags for Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham proving high, the Indians are looking to trade for a right-handed hitter to help at first base and/or in the outfield, FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports.
Morosi states that the Indians would be willing to tap into their relief depth to facilitate a deal. Closer Chris Perez seems likely to stay, but righties Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith and lefties Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez could potentially be had, though Pestano wouldn’t come cheap.
Florida’s Gaby Sanchez would be an obvious target for Cleveland if the Marlins can sign Albert Pujols. Sanchez hit .266/.352/.427 with 19 homers and 78 RBI in 572 at-bats last season, and since he’s not even arbitration eligible yet, his addition would still leave the Indians with money to play with. The problem there is that the Marlins are content with their pen and will likely seek a young starter in return for Sanchez.
San Diego’s Kyle Blanks is another who would make sense, and the Padres are looking for relief help. Blanks, 25, hit .229/.300/.406 9n 170 at-bats for the Padres after returning from Tommy John surgery last season. He’s miscast as an outfielder, but he’d offer plenty of power potential at first base. Despite playing half his games in Petco, he’s hit 20 homers in 420 at-bats as a major leaguer.
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.