Russell Martin and Freddie Freeman to join Team Canada in 2017 WBC
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.