UPDATE: I’m in Surprise today at Rangers camp. I just hung out in the Rangers clubhouse for a while. Everyone is proceeding in a business as usual way, but a lot of people — not players — are of the distinct impression that something messed up is afoot in the Rangers’ front office. This jibes pretty well with the report from this morning. The sense here is that either the Rangers’ owners or Jon Daniels needs to say something about Nolan Ryan’s status sooner rather than later because (a) there is too much uncertainty now; and (b) Ryan is not the person who should have to say that, no, he is not being squeezed out.
8: 19 AM: This would be something of a big deal. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Nolan Ryan could leave the Texas Rangers soon, possibly by the end of Spring Training.
The report is based on the announcements over the weekend that GM Jon Daniels has been promoted to president of baseball operations and that and that Rick George has been promoted to president of business operations. The Star-Telegram says that while Ryan’s title with the team is still CEO, Daniels now has final say over all baseball decisions and George the final say over business decisions, which would seem to leave little room for Ryan. They also report, however, that these moves happened in November internally even though they were just announced this weekend.
Team co-owner Bob Simpson denies that any changes are afoot, so this could all be hooey. But if there really were moves to squeeze Nolan Ryan out, it’s not the sort of thing you’d figure anyone would want to go on record to say.
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.