UPDATE: Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle that he shouldn’t have used “drunken sailors” to describe the Rangers’ activity in Latin America. He also clarified his comments by saying that his point “was more about the magnitude of their investment prior to future limitations. Not saying it’s a bad strategy but one that many teams can’t afford.”
Hey, can’t blame the Rangers for getting while the getting is good. Luhnow would probably do the same if he was in the same spot as Daniels.
8:01 PM: The Astros and Rangers play in the same state and will soon be in the same division, but they shouldn’t exactly be considered rivals. Not yet, anyway. However, new Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow fired a shot across the bow earlier this afternoon in reference to the back-to-back American League champions.
Luhnow, who was in attendance for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, said that the Rangers are spending like “drunken sailors” in Latin America thanks to a new television contract.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News spoke with Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels, who responded to Luhnow’s comment by saying the following:
“I couldn’t be more proud of what our scouts and coaches have accomplished with the support of ownership. No need to respond to comments like that.”
Rangers’ president Nolan Ryan also refused to take the bait:
“I wish I had something witty to say,” Ryan said. “But my mother always told me that if I don’t have anything nice to say than to just be quiet.”
The Rangers have been pretty aggressive in Latin America over the past year, signing Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin to a five-year, $15.5 million deal last May and Dominican outfielders Ronald Guzman ($3.5 million) and Nomar Mazar ($5 million) a few months later. But they really ruffled some feathers among MLB executives earlier this week by agreeing to sign Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras for $4.5 million when many teams believed he was only 16 years old and thus ineligible to sign until July 2, which is when the new international spending cap goes into effect. The signing is currently being investigated by MLB.
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.