Jason Varitek

Jason Varitek joins Tim Wakefield in calling it a career

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Among active teammates, only the Yankees’ trio of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada had been together longer than Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Now Varitek has joined Posada, the catcher he was so often compared to as part of the New York-Boston rivalry, and Wakefield in retirement.

Had Varitek played anywhere other than Boston or New York, he would have spent his career as an underrated player, a first-rate catcher without the eye-popping numbers that would have warranted a lot of attention. He never hit .300 or drove in 100 runs. He didn’t even become a regular until age 27.

In Boston, though, Varitek was “The Captain,” complete with the “C” on his chest. The guy who got into the fight with Alex Rodriguez. A key component on two World Series championship teams.

That reputation shouldn’t get Varitek anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but it’s worth remembering just how good he was at his peak. From 2003-05, he hit .283/.369/.494 with 65 homers and 228 RBIs. Among catchers, only Javy Lopez and Posada (with the same .863 OPS) were better offensively during that span, and Varitek had the best glove of that trio.

Alas, Varitek fell off pretty quickly from there, though it’s worth noting that he played quite a bit better as a backup the last two seasons than he did as a regular in 2008-09. Even at 40, he still projected as one of the game’s better offensive backups. Unfortunately, his arm has deteriorated to the point at which he just can’t stop anyone on the basepaths. That’s why there was no demand for his services over the winter.

Varitek finishes his career at .256/.341/.435 with 193 homers and 757 RBI. Among guys who played at least 80 percent of their games at catcher, Varitek ranks 16th in homers, 21st in RBI and 23rd in OPS (Posada, in comparison, ranks eighth, 10th and seventh in those categories).

Varitek also hit .237/.292/.452 with 11 homers and 33 RB in 63 postseason games. Looking at those who played exclusviely for the Red Sox, only Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Jim Rice had longer careers.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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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.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.