After months of reports about Yoenis Cespedes being on the verge of free agency MLB has finally announced that the 26-year-old outfielder who defected from Cuba last summer is cleared to negotiate with teams.
Cespedes established residency in the Dominican Republic and then surprised many people by participating in the Dominican winter league, but stopped playing following a rough 10-game stretch in which he hit .143.
Initially there was plenty of speculation about Cespedes getting as much as $50 million, but those rumors seem to have died down. However, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com “he’s expected to command a contract greater than” the $30.5 million deal Aroldis Chapman got from the Reds after defecting from Cuba in 2009.
Cespedes said previously that the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, and Indians have shown the most interest, but reports vary on whether he views playing in Miami as a positive or a negative.
As for what type of player Cespedes is capable of being, projections based off his Cuban numbers show a good but not great hitter with 25-homer power and poor strike-zone control.
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.