Chris Johnson Rumors

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  • The Mets will soon face another decision on Cesar Puello, the outfielder whose outright was rescinded earlier in the offseason when he was found to have a back issue that required a DL stint.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.


Quick Hits: Johnson, Twins, Rasmus, Correia

The Braves have reportedly been trying to package Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton along with one of their more desirable trade targets, and the Royals at least had some interest in Johnson, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.  Kansas City’s greater interest was in Justin Upton, though the Royals were considering using Johnson as a platoon partner with Mike Moustakas at third base.  Now that K.C. has signed Alex Rios, however, they can probably be counted out of the running for the younger Upton brother.

Here’s some more from around the baseball world…

  • The Twins aren’t seriously interested in either Asdrubal Cabrera or Jung-ho Kang, ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links), though Minnesota might “place [a] small bid” on Kang’s services.  Teams have until Friday at 4pm CT to post their bids for Kang.
  • Also from Wolfson, the Twins aren’t interested in signing outfielder Colby Rasmus.
  • Three or four teams are getting “more engaged” with Kevin Correia, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets.  The clubs in question are looking at Correia as a low-cost add as a fourth or fifth starter.
  • The Cardinals could still add another starting pitcher as a depth option, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes as part of a reader mailbag.  This would be a low-cost signing, Langosch notes, speculating that the Cards would look for a pitcher trying to recover from either an injury or just a poor 2014 season.
  • The Giants could also be looking to make a similar buy-low signing, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the club could fill its left field hole with a player coming off a rough season.
  • It’s been a surprisingly busy offseason for scouting director moves, as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo notes that eight different teams have installed new scouting directors since the start of October.
  • Padres director of baseball options Nick Ennis discusses analytics, the evaluation of new ideas and much more in an interview with Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris.

Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle would be surprised if the A’s are interested, as they’ve never shown interest in Cabrera in past years despite up-the-middle needs (Twitter links).
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. A’s GM Billy Beane has stated on the record that reports of his club’s interest in Kang are inaccurate. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.

NL East Notes: Upton, Giants, Rizzo, Gordon

We’ve already published one set of NL East Notes today, but there’s no shortage of news coming out of the Winter Meetings.  Here’s the latest from around the division…

  • The Giants would only be interested in taking on Braves outfielder Justin Upton and his substantial salary if signing Jon Lester was no longer an option, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.  Since the Giants have been told they’re out of the hunt for Lester, it’s fair to speculate that they could now turn their attention to Upton.
  • A rumored trade that would’ve sent Upton and Chris Johnson from the Braves to the Giants is about a week old and “not happening,” a source tells CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo spoke to reporters (including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com) about a number of topics, such as how teams are showing increased interest in Washington’s relief corps over the last day.  “When David Robertson signed, our relief pitchers came more into focus with other clubs,” Rizzo said. “We got a lot of traffic on those guys.”  There has been a particularly large amount of interest in Tyler Clippard.
  • Rizzo met with Ian Desmond‘s agents and expects to meet with Jordan Zimmermann‘s agents before the Winter Meetings are over.  It was reported earlier this week that the Nats would explore an extension with Zimmermann, and Rizzo certainly expressed his eagerness to talk to the right-hander.  “Zim’s part of the furniture here.  He’s drafted, signed, developed and starred with the same organization. We feel he’s one of our own, and we’re certainly eager to discuss things with him,” Rizzo said.  The GM isn’t sure, however, what Zimmermann’s asking price will be in this round of negotiations.
  • The Marlins have interest in Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports (Twitter link).  It was reported earlier today that L.A. was open to offers for Gordon.
  • The Mets aren’t close to dealing a starter, but if they do swing a trade, the Rangers and Royals are both “viable landing spots,” ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweetsJon Niese would command a larger return than Dillon Gee, though Rubin says the Mets would prefer to trade Gee since they feel Niese has more upside and can better help the club contend in 2015.  They would trade Niese for a good enough offer, however (Twitter links).
  • The Rangers, Royals and Giants are Gee’s most serious suitors, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes (via Twitter).
  • In regards to the Mets‘ shortstop search, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo hears that the team is “far more” interested in Jed Lowrie or Stephen Drew than they are with Asdrubal Cabrera.

Braves Notes: J. Upton, Johnson, Gattis, Pastornicky

Here’s the latest news on the Braves out of San Diego:

  • Echoing the prior report, president of baseball operations John Hart says that he will keep both Upton and Gattis unless he gets what he is looking for, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The club still has the option of attempting to compete by keeping them and adding another starter and a second baseman.
  • Teams in discussions with the Braves now feel they might be likely to keep Gattis, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
  • The Braves are now packaging Justin Upton and Chris Johnson in trade talks with teams, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

Earlier Updates

  • Atlanta is fielding interest on Upton from the Orioles, Rangers, and Padres, Bowman reports (Twitter links).
  • When the Royals asked about Gattis several weeks back, the Braves asked for young righty Yordano Ventura in return. Needless to say, that seems to have been a non-starter.
  • The Braves “seem ready to be aggressive,” sources from competitors tell MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links). Justin Upton and Evan Gattis remain the two most talked-about trade targets, but infielder Tyler Pastornicky and righty Anthony Varvaro “could also be included in talks,” per Bowman. Pastornicky is a 24-year-old infielder who could figure into Atlanta’s plans at second if he is kept. Varvaro, 30, has been a fixture in the Braves pen over the last several years.
  • While there remain several teams that are good potential matches on Upton, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Padres might be the best given their supply of young, controllable pitching. A note from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports earlier today also suggested a viable connection between those clubs on Upton.
  • While there is general agreement that Upton is a more valuable commodity than was the previously-traded Jason Heyward, teams remain hesitant to beat the return for the latter, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. There is a general sense that the package given up by the Cardinals, headlined by Shelby Miller, may have outstripped Heyward’s value.

Quick Hits: Towers, Cron, Johnson, Tigers

Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks isn’t sure whether he’ll still have his job when his team turns its fortunes around, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “When you spend $110 million and you’re 9-22 at the end of April, I wouldn’t be happy, either,” says Towers. “I’m also disappointed, but I still believe in the core group. I think they will get better. Will I be around to see it? I don’t know.” Towers also says the team’s poor start must have managing partner Ken Kendrick wondering if the Diamondbacks have the right GM and manager in place. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Angels have promoted first baseman C.J. Cron, who is in their lineup tonight as their DH, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 rated Cron the Angels’ second-best prospect. The 2011 first-round pick got off to a great start this season for Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting .319/.369/.602 in his first 122 plate appearances there.
  • The Braves feel like they’re getting a good deal in third baseman Chris Johnson‘s recent three-year extension, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. “He was looking for stability and we were looking to have a solid player at a tough position to man,” says GM Frank Wren. “When this contract is over, he’s 32. We all feel like that is when they’re in their prime. So it was another example of tying up a player long term, but not extending beyond their prime.” Johnson will earn $4.75MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season, and the $23MM deal buys out Johnson’s last two years of arbitration eligibility, plus one year of free agency, with a reasonable option for a second.
  • The Tigers aren’t yet sure what they’ll do to address their shortstop position, reports MLB.com’s Jason Beck. “We really haven’t approached those specific topics yet,” says GM Dave Dombrowski. Beck suggests that reinforces the perception that it’s unlikely the Tigers will sign free agent Stephen Drew before the draft in early June.

Braves Extend Chris Johnson

12:20pm: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that Johnson is guaranteed $23.5MM over the life of the deal, and the 2018 club option is valued at $10MM.

12:02pm: The Braves have suddenly become Major League Baseball’s most active team on the extension front, and they continued their rash of long-term deals on Friday by officially announcing a three-year deal for third baseman Chris Johnson. The contract will buy out two arbitration years and one free agent season, and the Braves hold a club option on a fourth year. Johnson, 29, is represented by Excel Sports Management.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals

Johnson, a fourth-round draft pick of the Astros in 2006, was dealt to the Diamondbacks near the 2012 trade deadline.  He later joined the Braves in January 2013 along with Justin Upton, with Arizona receiving Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Drury.  So far Johnson has compiled a .307/.344/.438 batting line in 643 plate appearances spanning 167 games for Atlanta.  He was worth 2.8 wins above replacement last season, according to FanGraphs.

Johnson had three years and 144 days of Major League service prior to this season,  so he’s already been arbitration eligible twice (the first time as a Super Two player).  Johnson is earning $4.75MM this year, and the Braves previously had him under team control through 2016.

As MLBTR’s Extension Tracker shows, Johnson stands to become the sixth Braves player to sign a multiyear extension since February, after the team committed 27 years and $280.7MM to Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons.  Only Heyward’s two-year deal failed to extend team control.  Excel Sports Management represents Freeman,  Heyward, and Johnson.

MLBTR was the first to report that the two sides were finalizing an extension. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported (via Twitter) that it was a three-year deal with a club option.

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)