Heath Bell blew another save last night, coughing up his fourth lead in seven tries, and afterward manager Ozzie Guillen finally seemed ready to make a change at closer after previously saying he’d stick with Bell through the struggles:
We’ll check tomorrow about what’s going to be the situation with the closer. We’ve got to do something about it. We can’t be waiting anymore. Tomorrow we might talk to him about the situation. If we’re going to be in the pennant race, he’s got to be better. Tomorrow we’ll have a better idea what to do with him.
If there’s any good news to be had within Bell’s performance it’s that he isn’t getting clobbered, allowing just one homer in 53 plate appearances. Unfortunately everything else is bad news, as he’s allowed a .385 batting average while walking 10 batters in 8.2 innings and has managed just six strikeouts. Oh, and his ERA is 11.42.
Bell’s strikeout rate dropping from 11.1 per nine innings to 7.3 per nine innings last season certainly hinted at a decline in raw stuff, particularly at age 34, but obviously a total collapse was unexpected following a season in which he saved 43 games with a 2.44 ERA.
Edward Mujica gives Guillen a good fallback option at closer, as he’s logged 252 innings with a 3.54 ERA and fantastic 217/43 K/BB ratio since 2009, but with Bell one month into a three-year, $27 million contract a long-term switch will be tough.
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.