Jim Thome is on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck and the 41-year-old designated hitter has been told that he’s at least 30 days from being cleared for baseball activities.
That means a mid-September return is now the best-case scenario and not playing again this season is a very real possibility. And with his 42nd birthday later this month that means not playing again, period, is also a very real possibility.
Thome has yet to say whether he plans to continue playing next season, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun thinks he dropped some pretty strong hints about continuing his Hall of Fame career within these quotes:
I don’t want to say yes, no. But you know what? This maybe changes my thinking a little bit. Maybe I do want to play a little bit longer. Again, I am trying to get back. I am not worried about next year. I think I’m trying to focus on this year, try to do the best to get back as quick as I can and to help us maybe accomplish and reach some special things here toward the end of September, through October. We’ll come to that once that time frame hits.
In other words, Thome doesn’t want to go out on the disabled list. And he remains an effective hitter, at least on a part-time basis, posting a .797 OPS in 150 plate appearances between the Phillies and Orioles.
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.