We heard last month that Edwin Encarnacion was going to play some left field during winter ball. Well, the experiment is officially underway.
According to a report in the Toronto Sun, Encarnacion has played left field in four out of his first five games with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League.
Encarnacion proved to be pretty terrible with the glove at the hot corner, so he mostly split time between first base and designated hitter this past season. He’ll obviously be much more useful if he can add left field to his resume, though the Blue Jays already have plenty of options for their outfield with Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Rajai Davis and the recently-acquired Ben Francisco. Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this month that even second baseman Kelly Johnson could get a look out there.
Encarnacion, who turns 29 in January, batted .272/.334/.453 with 17 home runs, 55 RBI and a .787 OPS this past season. He posted an .887 OPS after the All-Star break.
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.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.