Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun talks about the Orioles’ potential pursuit of free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett. In the process, he tells an amusing story about the last time the O’s had a chance to get Burnett. It was in 2005, when the Marlins were shopping him before he hit the free agent market. The O’s had a chance to get him and Mike Lowell for a package of prospects that, in hindsight, were no great shakes.
That didn’t happen, of course, as the O’s front office thought that, if Burnett wanted to pitch in Baltimore they could sign him that winter. That didn’t happen either, because he went to Toronto. But Conolly tells us that the O’s front office at that time wasn’t likely to go after Burnett anyway. Why?
. . .sources said Burnett, with his tattoos and body piercings, did not project the image that the Orioles wanted in one of their marquee players. Or, as one club official said to me at the time — and I think he was at least half-joking — “no way we sign a guy with nipple rings.”
Instead, the 2006 Orioles went to battle with respectable citizens in their rotation like Rodrigo Lopez, Kris Benson and Daniel Cabrera and allowed 899 runs. But at least there were no nipple rings involved.
Well, probably not. I’ve never seen Jeff Conine or Sam Perlozzo with their shirts off.
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.