UPDATE: Hold the phone: Bob Nightengale of USA Today spoke with Chuck Armstrong, president of the Mariners, and he said that the Mariners are not close to signing Hamilton.
Odd, then, that Baker would be as specific as he was with his report. One wonders if Armstrong is running some misdirection here.
8:40 AM: You laughed when you first heard that the Mariners were talking to Josh Hamilton. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times is reporting, however, that the last laugh may belong to Seattle:
I’m now told the talks between the two sides have been a lot more serious than anyone has let on and that they are actually “very close” to getting a deal done.
The holdup: Zack Greinke. Why? Because, according to Baker, the Rangers have been given a chance to match any offer for Hamilton the Mariners make. They cannot match it if the Rangers sign Greinke, because they can’t spend that much. If Greinke goes elsewhere, however, the Rangers will match the Seattle offer on Hamilton. Seattle is poised to strike fast, Baker says.
This is pretty shocking, no? Did anyone really think the M’s would be anything other than a stalking horse? Could anyone — before they moved the fences in anyway — have imagined them landing a big free agent bat, let alone the biggest?
But, pending Zack Greinke’s ultimate destination, that could very well happen.
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.