The Dodgers installed Dee Gordon as their everyday shortstop and leadoff man this season, but that may not continue for much longer.
Gordon went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in last night’s win over the Cardinals, dropping his batting line down to .200/.239/.255 through 155 plate appearances this season. According to Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hinted after the game that there could be some changes on the way.
“Seeing it from where I was at tonight, it wasn’t very good,” said Mattingly, who got to watch most of it from the center-field television camera on the television in his office because he was ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion in the top of the third inning. “The game seems to be moving awfully fast for him right now. We are going to continue to make decisions. But in the same breath, this kid is going to be a good player. He is going through something right now that is going to make him a better player later on.
“Things aren’t easy in this game, and there are times when you’re going to go through rough stuff. He is going through some rough stuff right now.”
The Dodgers could just move Gordon out of the leadoff spot to take some pressure off, but Jackson speculates that the speedy 24-year-old could be optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque while he works through his struggles. Justin Sellers would likely function as the regular shortstop in this scenario while Tony Gwynn, Jr. would slide into the leadoff spot.
Gordon’s .241 batting average on balls in play suggests that he has been the victim of some bad luck, especially coming off a .345 BABIP last year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. We’re still working with a small sample this early in the season and in his brief major league career, but he’s currently hitting more fly balls and less line drives while only six players have a higher infield fly ball rate. He has already drawn more walks (eight) this year than he did in 233 plate appearances last year (seven), which is a good sign, but he has also seen his strikeout rate jump from 11.6 percent to 19.4 percent. While he’s still the shortstop of the future for the Dodgers, he’s just a pretty easy out right now.
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.