Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro will let 10-game homestand define team’s fate

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In a column posted earlier, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly wrote about Phillies GM Ruben Amaro using his team’s ten-game homestand leading into the All-Star break as the defining factor in the team’s “buyer” or “seller” status. After tonight’s opener, a victory against the Braves, they stand at 42-45, 7.5 games behind the first place Braves.

“This homestand is very important,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Friday night’s game. “We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.”

Could the makeup of the team change if the Phillies don’t have a good homestand?

“It could,” Amaro admitted. “It could. I hope we’re adding to this club rather than subtracting. That’s the goal, but as I always say and I’ve been saying, the players will dictate it.

“These next 10 days are big.”

The team’s biggest trade chips are second baseman Chase Utley (a free agent after the season) and starter Cliff Lee. Both have limited no-trade clauses and would have to waive them before moving to certain teams. Catcher Carlos Ruiz, third baseman Michael Young, outfielder Delmon Young, and starter Roy Halladay will become free agents after the season, making at least the first three attractive to contending teams in search of a second-half upgrade.

The Phillies’ Minor League system has enjoyed big seasons from pitcher Jesse Biddle and third baseman Maikel Franco. Along with recent first round draft pick J.P. Crawford, their system is in better shape now than it was to start the season. Still, the Phillies could use some more young, projectable talent as it enters a transition phase, an issue easily resolved over the next three and a half weeks.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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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.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.