When the Mets acquired left-hander Oliver Perez in a trade with the Pirates at the 2006 trade deadline, they thought they were getting a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Five tumultuous seasons later, Perez’s tenure as a Met was meekly ended during spring training prior to the 2011 season having compiled a 4.71 ERA over 520 innings in New York. Since then, Perez toiled in the Minors with the Nationals in 2011, and with the Mariners in the first half of 2012.
The Mariners, though, did something the Mets and Nationals did not — they converted Perez to a reliever. With Triple-A Tacoma last year, Perez posted a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings. He struggled with control, walking 19, but also rediscovered his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 42 batters. He was promoted to the Majors in mid-June last year. Between June 18 and the end of the regular season, he posted a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Somehow, Perez has been even better this year. In 24.1 innings, the 31-year-old has a 1.11 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 12 walks. He earned the first save of his 12-year career last night, shutting the door on the Athletics in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory.
Perez’s success has to be in the back of the mind of any team that is considering going after Tim Lincecum in free agency. Lincecum has continued to struggle as a starter, but prospered out of the Giants’ bullpen in the post-season last year. Future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who performed well in both roles, thinks Lincecum has a future as a reliever.
If Oliver Perez can do it, why can’t Tim Lincecum?
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.