Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Braves To Sign Kelly Johnson To MiLB Deal

The Braves have agreed to sign infielder Kelly Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The 32-year-old is a client of Relativity Baseball.

Johnson spent his first ten years of professional baseball in the Atlanta organization, including parts of four seasons at the big league level. In the interim, he has played for the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles.

All said, Johnson has produced at an approximately league average rate at the plate, with a career .250/.333/.423 slash at the MLB level. He’ll deliver some much-needed punch to the new-look Atlanta lineup: his 131 lifetime home runs average out to 18 per 162 games, and Johnson owns a .173 ISO over his 4,471 plate appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that a large portion of those numbers are wrapped up in (and before) a big 2010 season. More recent figures are less encouraging, and last year was perhaps Johnson’s worst as a big leaguer. In 297 total plate appearances, he slashed .215/.296/.362 with seven home runs.

On the other side of the scorebook, Johnson has generally graded out as an approximately average performer at second base, where he has spent most of his time. Johnson has also played third, left field, and a touch of first base.

The Braves will presumably give Johnson a chance to earn a super-utility/bench bat role. He should have at least some chance of unseating presumptive starters Alberto Callaspo (2B) and Chris Johnson (3B) at some point during the year, depending upon how things shake out.


Braves Pursuing Jonny Gomes

The Braves are pursuing free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes as a potential platoon option in left field that could pair with Zoilo Almonte, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Gomes, 34, split the 2014 campaign between the Red Sox and Athletics, posting a combined .234/.327/.330 batting line in 321 trips to the plate. While the average and on-base percentage in that triple-slash line aren’t too far from Gomes’ career marks (.244 and .335, respectively), his slugging percentage was a full 112 points below his career rate.

Power outage notwithstanding, Gomes remained an effective weapon against left-handed pitchers in 2014, batting .276/.373/.371 in 170 plate appearances. That production, paired with a career line of .277/.376/.485 versus southpaws, does indeed seem to make him a nice platoon candidate with Almonte. Though the 25-year-old Almonte is a switch-hitter, he’s shown a significant platoon split over the past two seasons, posting an OPS below .600 as a right-handed hitter between the Majors and Minors combined. However, he did manage a seemingly solid .272/.313/.468 triple-slash with 18 homers as a left-handed hitter between Triple-A and the Yankees. He’s also a more gifted defender than Gomes and would naturally receive the bulk of the playing time in left given his side of the platoon.

Atlanta, of course, has traded an entire starting outfield this offseason, moving Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. The team now projects to have Almonte starting in left field, with B.J. Upton in center field and offseason signee Nick Markakis in right field. Gomes has had a fairly quiet offseason in terms of rumors circulating around his name, but with the majority of the starting options off the market, I’d imagine interest in his more specified skill set could increase.

Other speculative options for Atlanta in left would include free agents Ichiro Suzuki and Eric Young Jr., while the trade market could present names like Charlie BlackmonAllen Craig, Shane Victorino, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable and Dayan Viciedo.


Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.


Outfield Notes: Aoki, Blackmon, Heyward

New Giants outfielder Nori Aoki could have scored multiple years and a larger guarantee elsewhere, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but he preferred the opportunity to receive significant playing time for a contender and also liked the idea of living in San Francisco.

  • The Orioles are “doing their homework” on Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and could become involved in trade talks, but seemingly have not yet engaged in any discussions, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Baltimore does not consider it a fit for Dexter Fowler of the Astros, says Kubatko, and is still considering a run at free agent Colby Rasmus. The club is looking for left-handed-hitting outfielders, though Alejandro De Aza and David Lough remain under contract.
  • Jason Heyward and the Cardinals have each expressed general interest in exploring an expansion of their current one-year relationship, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A feeling-out process seems in order first, and neither side appears to be in a rush to sit down at the negotiating table.
  • Heyward also offered some interesting words on his past talks with the Braves and why they never proved fruitful, in his view. “For me, I’m from Georgia [and] I grew up playing baseball in that state,” said Heyward. “I grew up watching the great teams of the 1990s and got to play for a Hall of Fame manager [Bobby Cox] who helped build that organization. For me, I was never opposed to [staying]. There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Minor Moves: Bard, Berry, Hand, Pastornicky

Here’s a roundup of minor moves from late this week.

  • The Cubs have signed free agent pitcher Daniel Bard to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, tweets Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. The former Red Sox relief ace last appeared in the majors during the 2013 season when he tossed just one inning. After three solid campaigns to begin his career, the wheels fell off in 2012 with a 6.22 ERA, 5.76 K/9, and 6.52 BB/9 in 59 and one-third innings.
  • The Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Quintin Berry to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, tweets Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. The 30-year-old outfielder has seen infrequent action since making his major league debut with the Tigers in 2012. That year, he hit .258/.330/.354 in 330 plate appearances with 21 steals. He’s since served short stints with the Red Sox and Orioles as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
  • Free agent righty Donovan Hand tweets that he has agreed to a deal with the Reds. The deal would presumably be of the minor league variety. Hand, 28, spent his eighth season in the Brewers organization in 2014 as a swingman for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 5.20 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Hand had the same role in the big leagues in 2013, posting a 3.69 ERA and 2.8 BB/9 in 68 1/3 innings but with just 4.9 K/9.
  • The Braves have outrighted infielder Tyler Pastornicky, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets. The Braves designated Pastornicky for assignment last week after he hit .290/.330/.347 in 189 plate appearances last year for Triple-A Gwinnett. The 25-year-old has appeared in parts of three seasons in the Majors, most notably hitting .243/.287/.325 in 188 plate appearances in 2012.
  • The Athletics have outrighted infielder Andy Parrino, MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets. The A’s designated Parrino for assignment in the wake of the Ben Zobrist deal last weekend. The 29-year-old hit .274/.352/.384 at the Triple-A level in 2014.
  • The Mariners have outrighted lefty Anthony Fernandez, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Fernandez, 24, has never pitched in the big leagues and missed most of last season due to injury, making just five starts for Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners designated him for assignment Thursday.
  • The Orioles have outrighted catcher Ryan Lavarnway, according to MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Lavarnway, 27, was claimed three times in the past six weeks (by the Dodgers, Cubs and Orioles) before finally making it through waivers. He hit .283/.389/.370 in 257 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Red Sox system in 2014.
  • The Blue Jays have outrighted righty Cory Burns, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The Jays designated Burns for assignment earlier this week when they claimed Matt West. Burns, 27, pitched well in relief at Double-A and Triple-A in the Rays organization early in the season, but struggled after being claimed by the Rangers in June. The Blue Jays then claimed him in late September.
  • The Rays have signed lefty Everett Teaford, the Ballengee Group announces (via Twitter). The contract will presumably be a minor-league deal. Teaford appeared in parts of three seasons with the Royals from 2011 through 2013, but pitched for the LG Twins in the offense-heavy KBO in 2014, posting a 5.24 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 99 2/3 innings.

Jason Heyward Open To Extension With Cardinals

Outfielder Jason Heyward is open to the possibility of an extension with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes. The Casey Close client adds that he would have no problem discussing an extension even during the season.

They asked me to be here and I was traded into this situation, and it’s a good situation,” says Heward. “[W]e’ll see what happens. It’s kind of a unique situation because this is my last year before free agency.”

The Cardinals acquired Heyward from Atlanta earlier this offseason, and Heyward says that he was frustrated by the Braves’ lack of initiative on extension talks. “For me, I was never opposed to (staying),” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Heyward is right that his case is unique. He’s set to hit the free agent market next offseason as a 26-year-old, and his combination of youth, defense, on-base ability and pedigree should make him very valuable once he does, even though his power perhaps hasn’t developed as anticipated. His age, in particular, is a huge asset, since free agents tend to be much older — Heyward could be the rare free agent whose best years are still ahead of him. Last month in a post on Heyward’s extension candidacy, we noted that Heyward could easily receive a deal of at least eight years and possibly $200MM or more.

As Goold notes, the Cardinals should have a reasonable amount of money available to sign Heyward, should they choose to do so, especially in seasons beyond 2015. Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter are the only players they have signed beyond 2017, and Carpenter’s is their only veteran contract that’s backloaded.


Rockies Offering Charlie Blackmon For Pitching

The Rockies are discussing outfielder Charlie Blackmon with more than one team in trade talks and are hoping to get pitching in return, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal write. The Rockies haven’t made a significant pitching signing this offseason, and Morosi and Rosenthal write that the main reason is that they’re having trouble attracting pitching to Coors Field. The Rockies think they can deal Blackmon for a pitcher and then sign an outfielder, given that Denver would be an attractive destination for an outfielder for the same reason it’s a poor one for a pitcher. (The outfield market is rather thin at this late point in the offseason, although Colby Rasmus could be one possibility.)

Blackmon, 28, is coming off a solid 2014 season in which he hit .288/.335/.440 in 648 plate appearances. He also has another year before he becomes eligible for arbitration, so he would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target. Morosi and Rosenthal note that the Rockies have asked the Mets about Dillon Gee, for example, but Blackmon would surely have more trade value than Gee does (and the Mets probably aren’t on the hunt for a starting outfielder anyway). The Rangers, Braves, Orioles and Cubs could all make sense as potential trading partners.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.

NL East Notes: Moncada, Scherzer, Hamels

You can add the Marlins to the long list of teams interested in Yoan Moncada, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Fish are monitoring the Cuban phenom’s market.  Frisaro raises the possibility that the Marlins could see the versatile Moncada as a long-term answer in center field if Marcell Ozuna gets expensive through his arbitration years.  Given the bigger-spending teams also in the hunt for Moncada, however, Frisaro describes Miami as “probably a long shot” to sign him.  Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • Frisaro also wonders if investing in Moncada makes more sense for the Marlins than signing James Shields.  While the Fish are still interested in Shields, Frisaro flatly denies that the Marlins are in on Max Scherzer, saying “there is zero chance” of that happening.
  • The Rangers have kept in contract with the Phillies about a trade for Cole Hamels, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports, but the biggest obstacle seems to be money.  Texas wants the Phillies to cover some of the $96MM still owed on Hamels’ contract.
  • The Phillies are “unrealistic in their expectations” in what they hope to receive in a Hamels trade, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  As was reported earlier today, the Phillies have a firm price tag in mind for Hamels and are in no rush to deal the ace left-hander.
  • The Braves are no longer candidates to sign Brandon Beachy, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Atlanta non-tendered Beachy last month but were hopeful of reaching a new deal with the right-hander, who missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Beachy was reportedly considering between six offers from interested teams.
  • When the Astros had some late concerns about Evan Gattis‘ back and knee, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link) that during those last few hours, the Braves re-opened talks with the Rangers.  The details with Houston were worked out, of course, and Gattis is now an Astro.
  • The Mets‘ refusal to include Noah Syndergaard as part of a rumored three-team deal was a good call, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines, even though the trade would’ve brought Ian Desmond to Citi Field.  Dealing six years of control over Syndergaard for one year of Desmond wouldn’t have made sense, and if the Mets were willing to overpay on the type of extension it would take for Desmond to forego free agency, Davidoff argues that the team should just offer him that big contract next winter when he’s available.
  • Also from Davidoff, he hears from Rockies owner Charlie Monfort that a deal that would bring Troy Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.”
  • In other NL East news from earlier today, the Braves have no intention of trading Craig Kimbrel, we shared some Nationals notes, MLBTR’s Zach Links spoke to Gattis about his trade to the Astros as part of a media conference call.