We learned last week that Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu had defected (reportedly to Haiti or the Dominican Republic) in an effort to make his way to the United States. Now he has picked an agent.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that Abreu has selected Barry Praver and Bart Hernandez of Praver Shapiro Sports Management to represent him stateside. He’s slated to have a showcase for teams in September, though he’ll have to establish residency outside of Cuba and be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before being declared a free agent by MLB. That process could take a while.
Highly regarded for his power, Abreu is a 26-year-old first baseman who stands at an estimated 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds. Passan (and many others) believe that he could command the richest contract ever for a Cuban player, possibly approaching $60 million or more. Yasiel Puig’s seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers is currently the highest. Since Abreu is older than 23 and played in Cuba’s top league for more than three years, he will not be subject to MLB’s international spending cap.
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.