The Athletics entered the weekend’s three-game set with the Blue Jays the proud owners of baseball’s best offense, averaging 5.2 runs per game. They had no idea they were about to run into a Canadian buzzsaw. The Jays, behind starters Liam Hendriks, R.A. Dickey, and J.A. Happ, held the A’s to five runs over three games including Sunday’s 3-1 victory to complete a series sweep.
If you haven’t been paying close attention, the Jays snuck into first place in the AL East after Wednesday’s win over the Red Sox and maintain their two-game edge over the second-place Yankees. The Jays have won 11 of their last 13 games. Edwin Encarnacion has been on absolute fire, blasting 12 home runs in the month of May, including six in his last seven games. His slash line is up to .254/.332/.553. Starter Mark Buehrle is 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Jose Bautista has 12 home runs and a .965 OPS. Dickey has turned in seven consecutive quality starts. Casey Janssen is 7-for-7 in save chances since making his season debut on May 12 after spending six weeks on the disabled list.
We don’t know if the Jays can keep playing at this level. After all, on this date last season, the Dodgers were 20-27 in last place and six games out of first place in the NL West. A lot can change between now and the end of the regular season. But as of right now, the Jays are certainly starting to draw some attention and respect, rightfully so.
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.