Chris Johnson Rumors

NL Notes: Tulo, Teheran, Braves, Reds, Niese

In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich said that he is “at least open to considering” a deal involving star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (Twitter link). Last we checked in, Tulowitzki said he was not interested in being dealt, and he is believed to have significant sway with club ownership over his status. All said, there remains little reason to believe at present that Tulo is a serious trade candidate.

We already touched upon a series of interesting rumors involving National League clubs earlier today, but here’s the latest out of the NL:

  • Despite recent chatter that the Braves could consider dealing starter Julio Teheran, the young righty is “not being shopped,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. Given his cheap control, O’Brien says the team would need to be overwhelmed by an offer to consider such a move.
  • Indeed, the Braves are more likely to hold off on deciding whether to part with Teheran or outfielder Cameron Maybin, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The more likely trade pieces for Atlanta, he suggests, are veterans on one-year deals such as reliever Jim Johnson, utilityman Kelly Johnson, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski. The Braves have been asked about outfielder Nick Markakis, who still has three years left on his free agent deal, but the team is not making him available. And while Juan Uribe could well be dealt, the club reportedly prefers to attempt to move Chris Johnson first.
  • An executive of a club with interest in adding a hitter says the Reds are giving the impression that they are looking to “save money” wherever possible, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. That seemingly speaks to the availability of outfielder Jay Bruce, who recent reports indicate is very much in play.
  • The Mets are still willing to deal Jon Niese, but are asking for a player with multiple years of control in return, Stark tweets. The southpaw has turned up his performance of late, racking up eight straight quality starts (at least 6 innings pitched, no more than 3 earned runs) since a run of rough outings to end the month of May. He is playing on a $7MM salary this year and represents a $9MM tab for 2016, but can be controlled thereafter through a pair of options ($10MM and $11MM, respectively, each with $500K buyouts). Given New York’s evident budgetary restrictions, it has seemed that moving Niese’s salary could be a way for the club to free resources to allocate to the struggling offense, but it’s not clear whether they’ll have much hope of pulling that off in a single transaction.

NL East Notes: C. Johnson, K. Johnson, Parra, deGrom, Prado

The Braves have been determined to deal away Chris Johnson for some time, and the third baseman tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he hopes to find a new home. “I’ve been called in the manager’s office,” said Johnson. “[Manager Fredi Gonzalez] has told me they are trying to move me. I want to be moved, and they want to move me. Hopefully, something gets done.”While saying he’s enjoyed his time in Atlanta, Johnson emphasized that he is interested in receiving a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere. Obviously, the Braves are looking to shave off as much of Johnson’s contract as possible. Under the extension he signed early in the 2014 campaign, he is due roughly $19.99MM (including $2.52MM for this season and the buyout of a 2018 option).

A bit more on the Braves and their division…

  • Kelly Johnson has parlayed a minor league deal into a critical role on the Braves, writes David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Johnson credits first-year hitting coach Kevin Seitzer with helping him to shorten his swing and improve his overall approach at the plate. Of course, as a veteran on a one-year deal with a losing team, Johnson’s name may pop up over the next few days as a trade candidate; I listed him and three others Braves when looking at the trade market for third basemen earlier today.
  • The Mets continue to be intrigued by Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also looking at Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez, though multiple reporters (most recently Marc Carig of Newsday, who also reported interest in Parra late last week) have characterized that type of high profile acquisition as a long shot. Parra, Heyman notes, is drawing quite a bit of interest around the league.
  • Peter Gammons relays an anecdote from the 2012 trade deadline that could have vastly reshaped the current state of two franchises. When the Red Sox and Mets were discussing a trade for veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach, Boston initially asked about right-hander Jacob deGrom, who had recently undergone surgery. (deGrom was never projected to become the ace that he presently is, of course, and he had just undergone surgery.) However, after talking it over with his minor league evaluators, GM Sandy Alderson and the Mets passed. The two sides eventually lined up on a deal that sent right-hander Pedro Beato to Boston.
  • Marlins third baseman Martin Prado tells Zach Buchanan and Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic that he’s not concerned with the possibility that he could be traded for the third time in the past year. Prado says there’s no sense in thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is going to happen again,” and he’s instead focused on helping his teammates out. He’s candid when addressing the current state of the Marlins, however. “We’re in a pretty bad situation here,” says Prado. “I’m just trying to bring good energy for my teammates and my team. That’s all I can do right now.”

Heyman’s Latest: Dodgers/Hamels, Braves, Frazier, Price, Brewers, Upton

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…

  • The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
  • With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
  • In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
  • Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
  • The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
  • The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
  • The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
  • The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
  • Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
  • Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.


NL East Notes: Hamels, Braves, Pierzynski, Rizzo

Assuming normal rest, Cole Hamels is scheduled to start for the Phillies on July 19, July 25 and July 31, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes.  That July 31st start is a night game, so Hamels could be scratched if he’s dealt prior to the deadline earlier that afternoon (assuming he hasn’t already been traded before the 31st).  Here’s some more from Philadelphia and elsewhere around the NL East…

  • The Braves had discussed packaging Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson together in trade talks, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports, with the idea that two relievers would bring back a larger return from a bullpen-needy team. That plan was scuttled when Grilli suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear yesterday, though Johnson remains a trade candidate.
  • Bowman’s piece lists several possible trade chips on the Braves roster, including Johnson, Chris Johnson, Kelly Johnson, Cameron Maybin, Juan Uribe and A.J. Pierzynski.  In regards to Pierzynski, Bowman believes Atlanta will try to bring the catcher back in 2016 even if they do trade him this year.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo broadly discussed his team’s general deadline plans with reporters, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.  The Nats lineup will be boosted by the returns of several stars from the DL, and while Janes feels Washington could use another relief arm, Rizzo praised the job done by current relievers like Aaron Barrett and Blake Treinen.
  • It’s only a matter of time before Aaron Nola is promoted to the majors, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes, and he believes the Phillies could call Nola up within “the next couple of weeks, possibly in tandem with a trade deadline move.”  This is just my speculation, but promoting Nola to fill Hamels’ roster spot would be a good the-future-is-now type of move.
  • Several scouts believe former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto would be a good fit as the Phillies‘ next general manager, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.  Interestingly, Dipoto’s former assistant GM in Anaheim, Matt Klentak, has also been mentioned in connection to a job in the new Andy MacPhail-run Phillies front office.
  • In NL East news from earlier today, the Pirates have interest in Phillies outfielders Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur.

AL Central Notes: Mondesi, Swisher, Johnson, Tigers

Raul Mondesi is the Royals‘ “most appealing asset for trade discussions,” rival evaluators tell Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, though “the Royals have little interest in parting with him.”  Mondesi was a consensus top-40 prospect in preseason rankings from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, with BA listing him 28th before the year began and updating his status to 25th in their recent midseason rankings.  Despite a less-than-stellar showing at Double-A this season, the 19-year-old Mondesi has been discussed as a possible September call-up.  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Before Nick Swisher went on the DL, the Indians and Braves discussed a trade that would’ve sent Swisher to Atlanta in exchange for Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).  The Braves ended talks since Swisher is owed significantly more than Johnson (approximately $6.25MM to $2.5MM) over the remainder of the 2015 campaign.  Johnson is guaranteed $17.5MM over the 2016-17 seasons while Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016 and he has a $14MM vesting option for 2017.  The deal would’ve been an interesting case of clubs essentially swapping one disappointment for another, as both Swisher and Johnson have posted underwhelming numbers over the last two seasons.
  • Indians scouting director Brad Grant discusses his team’s top three draft picks (Brady Aiken, Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman) with Fangraphs’ David Laurila, noting how the Tribe wasn’t shy to take a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery and two high school arms.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has a very impressive history at the trade deadline, as Tony Paul of the Detroit News lists nine deals that benefited the team over Dombrowski’s tenure.

Braves Still Shopping Chris Johnson

The Braves have continued to look for a trade partner for third baseman Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in a series of tweets.  In addition to deals for Johnson himself, Atlanta has also made proposals that would include Johnson along with another (more desirable) player, akin to how the Braves managed to get Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract off their books by dealing him to the Padres with Craig Kimbrel in April.  The Braves tried a similar “packaging” tactic with Johnson himself in offseason trade talks.

Johnson is hitting .229/.272/.313 with one homer over 103 plate appearances this season, and he also missed about a month of action recovering from a hand fracture.  If struggling at the plate in 2014 and 2015 wasn’t enough to lower his trade value, Johnson is owed roughly $3MM more in salary this season and $17.5MM through the 2017 campaign.

The Giants were one of the clubs who at least discussed Johnson with the Braves last winter but Rosenthal reports that San Francisco doesn’t have any interest now.  Rookie Matt Duffy has quite capably stepped in at third base in the wake of Casey McGehee‘s struggles, and since both Duffy and Johnson are right-handed bats, there would be little avenue for Johnson to find playing time in the Bay Area even if he was being acquired largely as a throw-in.

Rosenthal speculates that a deal of Johnson and Cameron Maybin for Jake Peavy and Angel Pagan would balance out the salaries, though that exact package was never discussed between the two teams.  It’s also hard to imagine Peavy waiving his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding team, though the Braves are just a few games back of the Giants in the standings.

Though Atlanta is still in the wild card hunt, the team has made such a push to acquire young talent under president of baseball operations John Hart that it’s hard to see the Braves being notable buyers at the trade deadline.  The Braves could perhaps tie Johnson to one of those newly-acquired prospects in order to get him off the roster — the “buy a prospect” strategy that Hart himself used to recently acquire Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo‘s expiring contract from Arizona.  Maybin or closer Jason Grilli stand out as veterans who could be shopped and possibly linked along with Johnson in a trade.


Heyman’s Latest: Phillies, C. Johnson, Sellers, Harang, Rays

In his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by taking a look at a messy situation in Philadelphia. Heyman hears the same rumblings that were first reported by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury — that Andy MacPhail could very well be in line for an executive role with the Phillies. The hiring of MacPhail would bring into question the status of both GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg. While one exec notes that no one could have had much success with the hand Sandberg has been dealt, his calm demeanor hasn’t motivated the team much, and he may have lost the clubhouse at this point. Heyman notes that partial owner John Middleton, who is believed by some to be calling the shots in Philly, may have extra impetus to get a new decision-maker in the door so that a lame-duck GM (Amaro’s contract expires at season’s end) isn’t the primary decision-maker on what could be a franchise-altering Cole Hamels trade. Speaking of Hamels, Heyman notes that interested teams will want to see him pitch at least twice now that he had a start pushed back due to a hamstring strain, thinning the window of opportunity to trade him. As far as Jonathan Papelbon goes, the belief is that he’d approve any trade that sent him to a contending team, though the Cubs might be his preferred fit at this point if he had a say in the matter.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s latest (though there’s more in the column than we can cover here)…

  • The Braves have tried to trade Chris Johnson and even offered to substantially pay down the remaining money on his contract, but there’s been little interest. The Johnson deal was widely questioned from the start, and there’s still about $21MM owed to Johnson through the end of the 2017 season. Johnson’s a viable weapon against lefties, but he’s a sub-par hitter against right-handed pitchers and is not well-regarded from a defensive standpoint.
  • Rival teams are beginning to wonder if the Red Sox might sell some pieces this summer, with Mike Napoli, Clay Buchholz and Koji Uehara among the possible names listed by Heyman. Napoli isn’t hitting for average but has shown good power and a nice walk rate. Buchholz has improved after a rocky start and Uehara again has strong numbers in the ‘pen.
  • The White Sox are beginning to think about selling, Heyman hears, but they’re not quite ready to move their bigger pieces. Emilio Bonifacio might be the first name they make available, but eventually, Jeff Samardzija‘s name could be out there. Heyman writes that while Samardzija isn’t pitching well in 2015, his big arm is so tantalizing to scouts that there will still be interest in him.
  • The Reds aren’t expected to sell until after the All-Star Game and would be very open to shedding Brandon Phillips‘ contract, per Heyman, though I have a difficult time envisioning too many teams lining up to take on the remainder of that deal. Phillips is owed about $34.1MM through the end of the 2017 season and has seen his power more or less vanish. Heyman speculates that Everth Cabrera could be a fit in Cincinnati with Zack Cozart out for the year, and there’s some logic to that scenario, though they may first prefer to see what they have in Eugenio Suarez. The Mets aren’t interested in Cabrera, he adds later.
  • The Marlins aren’t selling yet, according to GM-turned-manager Dan Jennings. “We’re in it, we’re not jumping off the ship. No doubt about that,” Jennings told Heyman. If their attitude changes, Heyman thinks they’ll find interest in Martin Prado and Mike Dunn.
  • The Astros like Aaron Harang but are said to be aiming higher when looking at potential trade targets to bolster their rotation.
  • The Dodgers are on the hunt for a top-tier starting pitcher and a late-inning arm to help bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen. In other Dodgers-related news, Heyman hears that No. 35 pick Kyle Funkhouser is strongly considering returning to Louisville. Funkhouser was once looked at as a potential Top 10 pick, but he fell to a slot with a $1.756MM value. He’d have less leverage in 2016 as a senior sign, of course, but he could certainly improve his draft stock and his bonus with a big senior year.
  • Yankees chief international officer/executive vice president Felix Lopez is no longer listed on the team’s web site and some indicate that he’s been gone from the organization for three months, Heyman writes. Lopez was said to have angered Yoan Moncada‘s camp after calling to express displeasure with their decision to sign in Boston over New York. The team hasn’t made a statement on his departure.
  • The Rays are looking for first base help with James Loney on the disabled list, but Loney’s said to be returning around the All-Star break. Heyman speculates on the possibility of Ryan Howard ending up in Tampa Bay if the Phillies eat some or all of the contract, but I’d think there’d be something of a logjam there once Loney is activated in that scenario.

NL East Notes: Johnson, Howard, Flores, Murphy, Puello

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is expected to miss three to six weeks after receiving good news from his MRI, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Because his hand fracture was “preexisting,” per the report, Johnson will not be out as long as originally feared.

Here’s more from New York and the rest of the NL East:

  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard will qualify for ten-and-five rights tomorrow, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Howard downplayed the importance of that fact as regards his contract status, though he rightly noted that it was a worthwhile achievement standing alone. As Lawrence notes, there is little practical effect, as a modification to Jimmy Rollins‘ contract before his trade left Howard with virtually complete no-trade protection regardless.
  • Despite a troubling start to the year defensively — he tacked on a seventh error tonight — Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is in no danger of being replaced, as Rubin reports. The club thinks that the youngster will return to making the routine plays that are giving him fits right now, with GM Sandy Alderson saying that Flores has “plenty of room” to get back on track.
  • Dilson Herrera did not do much in his first appearance of the year for the Mets, but New York is already considering what will happen if he’s as good as advertised during his call-up, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The present alignment will feature Herrera at second and Daniel Murphy at third. But when David Wright returns from the DL, something will have to give. GM Sandy Alderson would say only that “the plan” is for Murphy to return to second, adding that “at the moment” there is no movement toward keeping Herrera there. But sources tell Martino that the Mets would be increasingly willing to move Murphy, even for a lesser return and even well before the trade deadline, if Herrera seems ready.
  • The Mets will soon face another decision on Cesar Puello, the outfielder whose outright was rescinded earlier in the offseason when he was found to have a back issue that required a DL stint. As ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin explains, Puello is likely to hit the waiver wire again once his rehab stint is finished.

Chris Johnson Has Fractured Hand; Braves Call Up Foltynewicz

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson will go on the disabled list with a fractured left hand, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Top prospect Michael Foltynewicz will take his roster spot to make his first big league start after picking up 16 relief appearances last year.

Johnson, 30, has not been forced to the DL since a short stint back in 2010. And he continues to produce an excellent batting average, hitting right in the range of his career mark this season.

Of course, the issue with Johnson has never been his ability to generate hits; it has been his inability to consistently hit for power or reach base by other methods, combined with substandard defense. His career slash stands at .283/.319/.418, right at the league average. But by measure of wins above replacement, he has produced less than a full total win in over 2,500 turns at bat. This year, likewise, Johnson currently owns a sub-replacement level mark (by measure of Baseball-Reference) in spite of a sturdy-enough .286/.340/.381 line.

His best season, of course, came in 2013, when he turned from a bit piece in the Justin Upton trade to a highly productive regular. Somewhat unfortunately for Atlanta, that coincided with the team’s aggressive push to lock up multiple players to extensions. Of the deals signed, only Johnson’s really looked bad from the early going. The three-year, $23.5MM pact kicked in this year, leaving Atlanta on the hook for $17.5MM (including a 2018 option buyout) in 2016-17.

Johnson has worked in a timeshare this season, as Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, and Phil Gosselin have all seen time at the hot corner. While that means that the Braves have plenty of options to fill in for Johnson, the club surely hopes that he will be as productive and healthy as possible given his contract. Even if the team can’t stay in the race this year, it would surely like to find a taker for some of Johnson’s contract.

As for Foltynewicz, a 23-year-old righty, Atlanta will get a chance to see one of the key pieces it acquired in the winter’s Evan Gattis trade. He is off to a strong start at Triple-A, allowing just five earned in 21 2/3 frames while posting 12.5 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. The Braves will surely give him every chance to succeed as a starter, though some believe his future will be in the late innings as a reliever. Foltynewicz was a consensus top-100 prospect last year, though his stock slid somewhat after an unproductive 2014. MLB.com does still list him as the game’s 78th overall prospect.


Latest On Giants’ Search For Third Baseman

The Giants continue to look for a replacement for longtime starting third baseman Pablo Sandoval. With Chase Headley now also off of the market, here’s the latest on some possible trade candidates:

  • San Francisco is in contact with the Marlins about Casey McGehee, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Among the Giants players being discussed are reliever Hunter Strickland and infielder Matt Duffy, per Rosenthal.
  • The Giants are also still interested in Braves third bagger Chris Johnson, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Johnson is owed $23.5MM over the next three years, and Atlanta may need to hold onto a portion of that commitment to move him.
  • Free agent Asdrubal Cabrera is among the finalists, with McGehee, to be brought on at third for the Giants, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Club assistant GM Bobby Evans indicated previously that Cabrera was interested in finding a job up the middle, but said the door would remain open to further conversations.