The Pirates and Angels have swapped struggling closers, as Jason Grilli will head to the Angels and Ernesto Frieri will join the Pirates, MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports.
Frieri, 28, enjoyed some success for the Angels in his new role as the closer last season, but faced unending difficulty this year. The right-hander is 0-3 with 11 saves in 14 chances and a 6.39 ERA. He struck out 38, walked nine, and allowed eight home runs in 31 innings.
Grilli, 37, lost his role as the Pirates’ closer to Mark Melancon when he went on the disabled list with a strained left oblique on April 21. He returned on May 23, and manager Clint Hurdle put him back in the closer’s role on May 30, but the results weren’t much better. Overall, Grilli was 0-2 with 11 saves in 15 chances and a 4.87 ERA. He struck out 21, walked 11, and allowed four home runs in 20 1/3 innings.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t immediately slotting Grilli in to the closer’s role, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. It’s not yet known how this trade will affect current Pirates closer Melancon. Melancon has performed well in the role for the Pirates thus far.
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.