With about two weeks to go until the start of the regular season, shortstop Stephen Drew and first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales still remain unemployed. Both players rejected $14.1 million qualifying offers from the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively, hoping to sign big, multi-year contracts, but it never happened. Meanwhile, players like Nelson Cruz and Ervin Santana, who also rejected qualifying offers, settled for one-year deals to find a home and get into shape before the start of the regular season.
Boras says his two clients, who continue to work out in Florida, will wait for the right deal, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Both could even wait as long as after the draft, when the draft pick compensation attached to them would disappear, making them more attractive to prospective teams and giving them more leverage in negotiations.
Boras criticized the qualifying offer system, even going so far as to call it “jail”.
“The system they’ve been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency,” Boras said. “They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now — and we’re still taking offers on those — or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens.
“Like any players, they want to play baseball. But they’re also looking at the long-term aspect of their careers. This system has placed them not in free agency, but it’s placed them in a jail.”
The Mets have been the team most frequently linked to Drew, as they will otherwise go into the regular season with Ruben Tejada as their everyday shortstop. As Dan Martin of the New York Post reports, however, Drew is still seeking a multi-year deal and the Mets aren’t interested in committing to him beyond one year. ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports that the Mariners are still pursuing Morales.
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.