If you’re Alex Rodriguez you probably have to be smiling a bit about this report from Mike Fish of ESPN:
After months of negotiations and legal wrangling with the whistle-blower in the Biogenesis clinic scandal, Major League Baseball still hasn’t pried loose documents he took from the clinic. But within the past week, Porter Fischer, the clinic’s former marketing director, appeared before a federal grand jury in Miami and turned over the records, sources told “Outside the Lines.” … The grand jury appearance by Fischer and his turning over of documents is a clear sign that the scandal has gone beyond Major League Baseball’s intensive in-house probe and evolved into a federal law enforcement investigation that could potentially lead to criminal charges against individuals tied to the clinic and its distribution network, including Tony Bosch, the shuttered clinic’s founder who is cooperating in baseball’s investigation.
To sum up: Baseball doesn’t have the documents, but the government does. You know what’s really, really hard? Trying to get documents from the government that are part of a criminal investigation so that you can use them for your personal business purposes. Which is what baseball would have to do if it were to use Fischer’s documents in an arbitration against A-Rod.
So, why not just go to Tony Bosch, you ask? Well, according to this report he could very well face criminal indictment here. Know what else is really hard? Getting someone who is under a criminal indictment to go on the record in a civil arbitration admitting to all of the drug stuff he did. Which is something else baseball would have to do if it were to go hard after A-Rod in the arbitration.
None of which is to say that baseball’s case is dead. There are reportedly other witnesses, cell phone records and things already in their possession. But given how significant Bosch and Fisher are supposed to be, and given how there is a non-trivial risk that they could be put out of reach as evidence sources going forward, one has to wonder if anyone at MLB is nervous here.
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.