With the field set for the 2017 World Baseball Classic after qualifiers were played during the spring, the focus on international baseball now shifts to next year. Team USA recently hired former Detroit Tigers skipper Jim Leyland to manage the club.
Leyland currently serves as a special assistant to Tigers general manager Al Avila. In 22 Major League seasons, Leyland, who retired after the 2013 season, finished with a .506 winning percentage, one World Series championship and two American League pennants.
He guided the Tigers to three AL Central championships and four postseason berths over eight seasons. Leyland takes the helm of a USA club that’s yet to finish above fourth place in the first three WBC tournaments.
That’s largely been tied to USA being unable to get top talent to participate in the two-week tournament. According to Bill Shaikin of the LA Times, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, and others, are being targeted under a different approach:
The idea: Instead of missing up to three weeks of spring training, Kershaw could commit to starting the semifinal or final, then join Team USA for the final round, assuming the U.S. gets there. That could reduce his time away from the Dodgers to two or three days.
Given that the 2017 WBC isn’t until March, Kershaw said recently he hasn’t made a decision on participating:
“They’re trying to make it more accessible,” Kershaw said Saturday. Kershaw said he has not decided whether he would participate. “It’s so far away,” he said. “Health is the biggest thing, especially where you’re at in the off-season.”
Kenley Jansen, who is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, plans plans to pitch for Netherlands in the tournament. Adrian Gonzalez joined Mexico for one weekend in Spring Training to help guide them through the qualifying round. It’s plausible Gonzalez will join Mexico in the WBC and potentially be joined by Julio Urias.