Boston may still add a veteran closer to replace Jonathan Papelbon, but in the meantime they’ve picked up a potential ninth-inning option in right-hander Mark Melancon, who saved 20 games for the Astros this year.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Red Sox are sending infielder Jed Lowrie and pitching prospect Kyle Weiland to the Astros for Melancon, who logged 74 innings with a 2.78 ERA and 66/26 K/BB ratio at age 26 and is under team control through 2016.
Injuries and prolonged slumps have been the story of Lowrie’s career so far and despite showing flashes of a strong bat he’s 27 years old with a modest .252 batting average and .742 OPS. He’s also yet to play even 90 games in a season and there are some doubts about if he can handle being an everyday shortstop defensively, but the Astros need infield help and Lowrie has shown signs of being an impact player. He was expendable in Boston because of Marco Scutaro and slick-fielding shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias.
Weiland was the Red Sox’s third-round pick in 2008 and struggled in his big-league debut, but posted solid numbers in the minors and looks capable of developing into a mid-rotation starter.
Melancon is good and cheap and under team control for years to come, so acquiring him beats paying a premium for a “proven closer” like Francisco Cordero or giving up top prospects for Andrew Bailey, but he’s also a year removed from being at Triple-A and the Lowrie-Weiland haul is a good one for Houston.
The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.
Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.
The team has yet to confirm the deal.
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.