Allen Craig is out for the NLDS because of a foot injury and general manager John Mozeliak does not expect him back for the playoffs regardless of whether the Cardinals make a deep run in October.
Appearing on 920-AM radio in St. Louis, the GM was asked about Craig’s return timetable and replied: “Could Craig play this postseason? Yes. Is it a high probability that he plays? No.”
Craig hit .315 with 13 homers and an .830 OPS in 134 games this season, including an NL-leading batting average with runners in scoring position, but the Cardinals are as prepared to replace him as any team could be thanks to Matt Adams. Limited to a part-time role for the much of the season, Adams hit .284 with 17 homers and an .839 OPS in 319 plate appearances overall and has the minor-league track record to suggest it was no fluke.
It’d obviously be nice to have both, especially since they swing from different sides of the plate and Craig is capable of playing multiple positions, but the Cardinals’ offense is certainly strong and deep enough to thrive with Adams at first base.
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.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.