Reports from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith confirmed two more additions to Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic: Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin. Martin is pegged to start at shortstop during the competition, which is scheduled to kick off in March.
Freeman, 27, had a breakout season with the Braves in 2016, batting .302/.400/.569 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS in 693 PA. Martin’s season got off to a bit of a slower start, and he finished his second year in Toronto with a .231/.335/.398 batting line, 20 homers and a .733 OPS through 535 PA. The 33-year-old has not played shortstop at the major league level in any of his 11 seasons, though he did make an appearance at short during the World Baseball Classic in 2013, partly to avoid the stress of handling an unfamiliar pitching staff.
Freeman and Martin will join free agent first baseman Justin Morneau and right-handers Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster on Team Canada, per earlier reports from Davidi on Saturday. Gagne, 41, has been playing in the Canadian-American Association on and off since his departure from MLB in 2008, while Dempster has not played pro ball since his retirement in 2014.
As for those who are skipping the WBC this year, Davidi lists Mariners left-hander James Paxton and Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon as two who have declined to appear so far. Nicholson-Smith adds that while free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has expressed interest in signing on with Team Canada, he’ll wait until he picks up a contract for the 2017 season to make a final decision.
Free agent catcher Chris Iannetta signed a one-year contract with the Diamondbacks, as confirmed by the team on Friday night. According to Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com, the deal is set at $1.5 million.
The 33-year-old backstop batted .210/.303/.329 with seven home runs and 24 RBI for the Mariners in 2016. He was even shakier on defense, seeing a significant regression in his pitch framing skills that left him ranked among the worst defensive catchers in the league during the 2016 season (via StatCorner).
The Diamondbacks acquired another veteran backstop in Jeff Mathis last month, signing the 33-year-old free agent to a more sizable two-year contract. While Iannetta’s defense has yet to stabilize, Mathis’ skills behind the plate placed him among the top 20 performers in 2016. Piecoro reports that the Diamondbacks have high hopes for Iannetta’s on-base and power potential, neither of which appear to have surfaced in recent years. With Iannetta and Mathis hovering around the Mendoza line, both catchers are expected to partner with the more offensively-talented Chris Herrmann behind the plate in 2017.
Jean Segura and the Seattle Mariners have avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a $6.2 million, one-year contract. He made $2.6 million with the Diamondbacks last year. He was traded to the Mariners in late November.
Segura batted a career-high .319 with 20 homers, 33 stolen bases and 64 RBIs for Arizona last year, leading the National League with 203 hits. The Mariners control him through 2018, and barring a contract extension will go through the arbitration/arbitration avoiding one-year deal path once again next winter.