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Despite age, Raul Ibanez still drawing lots of interest

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The list of players who are able to justify a roster spot at the age of 40 is relatively short. The list of 40-year-olds to bash 29 home runs is remarkably shorter. Maybe that’s why free agent Raul Ibanez, now 41, is still drawing interest. He finished 2013 with 29 dingers and an adjusted OPS 23 percent above average. It marked the 18th time in baseball history a player posted an adjusted OPS 20 percent higher than the league average (min. 450 plate appearances). The only other players to do it in this millennium were Barry Bonds (twice, 2006-07) and Edgar Martinez (2003).

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Twitter earlier that even National League teams are showing interest in Ibanez:

Ibanez will turn 42 years old on June 2, so 2014 will be viewed as his age-42 season (if he had been born on July 1 or later, it would have been his age-41 season). The last player to take enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title was Carlton Fisk in 1990. Only five other players, along with Fisk, have accomplished the feat since 1901: Pete Rose (1983), Carl Yazstrzemski (1982), Luke Appling (1949), Sam Rice (1932), and Honus Wagner (1916). With the exception of Rose, they are all Hall of Famers. Rose was also the only one of the six not to post an adjusted OPS above the league average.

Ibanez’s last home run — a solo shot against the Angels on September 21 — was the 300th of his career. Other career milestones he is likely to reach with another full, productive season:

  • 8,000 plate appearances (currently at 7,998)
  • 2,000 hits (currently at 1,993)
  • 425 doubles (currently at 416)
  • 50 triples (currently at 48)
  • 1,250 RBI (currently at 1,181)

Despite the impressive performance with the bat, Ibanez is a defensive nightmare in the outfield, so a National League team’s best bet is to use him at first base or off the bench, or otherwise let an American League team snap him up. He earned $2.75 million on a one-year deal with the Mariners last season.

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.