Jim Johnson Rumors

Minor Moves: Johnson, Leroux, Murphy, Axelrod

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.

  • The Tigers will select the contract of reliever Jim Johnson on Sunday, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. To make room on the 40-man roster, they’ll option fellow reliever Melvin Mercedes to Triple-A Toledo. Johnson, of course, struggled with Oakland after two strong years as the Orioles’ closer and ultimately got released before signing a minor league deal with Detroit. He has since pitched 4 2/3 innings for Toledo, allowing three runs, two earned.
  • The Yankees have outrighted pitcher Chris Leroux, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Earlier this week, the team designated Leroux for the third time this year, and he’s only made two appearances this season in pinstripes, the last coming in early May. He has a 4.37 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 45 1/3 innings so far this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • The Braves have signed infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. As MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets, that likely means Murphy opted out of the minor league deal he signed with the Reds last month. Murphy, 31, hit .196/.268/.330 in 128 plate appearances with the Rangers earlier this year, mostly playing second base.
  • The Reds announce that they have selected the contract of righty Dylan Axelrod. They’ve also moved Homer Bailey (neck) to the 15-day DL and Joey Votto (quadriceps) to the 60-day DL. Axelrod will start tonight’s game against the Rockies. The Reds acquired Axelrod from the White Sox in a minor trade in July, and since then he’s posted a 3.06 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 35 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville.
  • The Diamondbacks have released outfielder Blake Tekotte, according to MiLB.com. Arizona acquired Tekotte from the White Sox in a minor deal less than two weeks ago. This season, the 27-year-old has hit .249/.320/.439 in 340 plate appearances. From 2011 through 2013, he made brief big-league appearances with the Padres and then the White Sox.
  • The Phillies have released lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, according to the International League transactions page. The 29-year-old pitched for the Braves, Blue Jays and Orioles from 2007 through 2011. He spent 2012 in the Pirates’ farm system, then headed to Korea in 2013. He made 13 starts in Korea in 2014 and struggled there, then headed to Lehigh Valley, where he pitched 20 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and walking eight en route to a 10.45 ERA.

Central Notes: Johnson, Bullpen Issues, Suzuki

The closest pennant races are in MLB’s two Central divisions. Here’s the latest from both the NL and AL Central:

  • The Brewers sense they were the runner-up for the services of right-hander Jim Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on Tuesday, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.
  • Despite the lack of offense from their first base platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, the Brewers were wise not to re-sign first baseman Corey Hart this past winter, opines Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hart, who missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring earlier this season and is on the disabled list for second time with a bruised right knee, has posted a meager slash of .203/.278/.314 with five home runs in 230 plate appearances.
  • Also within Haudricourt’s article, he details the injury and performance issues which have hobbled the Brewers‘ bullpen. Haudricourt notes the Brewers could still acquire a reliever this month, but there is no guarantee they will have a chance to claim one based on their waiver position.
  • The Cardinals could also be facing an issue with their bullpen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick GooldIn two of the past three years, Goold notes, the Cardinals have reached the World Series in the same season they had to change closers in the final month with fatigue being a contributing factor both times and it could happen again considering the recent usage of Trevor Rosenthal. Manager Mike Matheny acknowledges he has “ridden him hard,” but pointed to Rosenthal’s save success when asked about overuse. Goold reports Scott Boras, Rosenthal’s agent, has spoken to the club and his client about the workload.
  • Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki did not request a no-trade clause when he negotiated his recent contract extension, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer PressWe didn’t think it was necessary,” Suzuki told Berardino.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Price, Lester, Yanks, Johnson

The Red Sox announced tonight that outfielder Shane Victorino underwent a season-ending lumbar disectomy surgery. The 33-year-old appeared in just 30 games for the BoSox this season, slashing .268/.303/.382 with two homers and two steals. Clearly, the second year of his three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox didn’t pan out as well as the first — which was arguably the finest season of his entire career. Though his contract was widely panned at the time of the signing, Victorino silenced critics by batting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and elite outfield defense — all of which combined to total more than 5.5 wins above replacement.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • David Lennon of Newsday tweets that the Red Sox and Rays both received permission from their owners to trade their left-handed aces to any team in baseball, with one exception: the Yankees.
  • The injury to David Phelps should push the Yankees back into the starting pitching market, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. As he notes, the case can be made that the Yankees’ five best starting options — Phelps, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda — are all on the disabled list at this time.
  • Allowing Matt Thornton to be claimed by the Nationals saved the Yankees about $1MM in 2014 salary and $3.5MM in 2015 salary, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees could redirect some of those savings to add some pieces this month. New York is working on some potential additions already, says Rosenthal. GM Brian Cashman is “open to anything that makes [the Yankees] better,” he tells MLB.com’s Jake Kring-Schreifels.
  • The Orioles had interest in adding former closer Jim Johnson on a minor league deal, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but they felt they didn’t have room to add him to the big league squad until rosters expand in September. Manager Buck Showalter tells Kubatko that he expressed that point to Johnson in multiple phone conversations
  • Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that while he assumes that many people will expect him to be bitter toward Boston, he has no hard feelings toward the organization or his former teammates (even those who have spoken against him since his departure). Pierzynski said he didn’t ask for a reason when he was DFAed, although he wasn’t exactly expecting the move. He also offers high praise for his brief time with the Cardinals and briefly discusses the difficulty of a catcher transitioning pitching staffs midseason.


Tigers To Sign Jim Johnson

The Tigers have agreed to a minor league deal with righty Jim Johnson, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The longtime Orioles closer lost his 9th-inning gig not long after joining the Athletics this year, and was ultimately released by Oakland.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

It’s obviously a low-risk move for Detroit, which has dedicated plenty of attention to shoring up the pen. Johnson can audition and provide depth in the minors, while of course also providing that always elusive late-inning experience if the need arises down the stretch.

Johnson has never been an outright dominant reliever in the sense of maintaining high strikeout rates or wielding unhittable stuff, but he certainly has a history of effectiveness. Still only 31, Johnson racked up three straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA ball in Baltimore over 2011-13 before hitting a wall with the A’s. Though he continued to induce tons of ground balls with his heavy sinker, Johnson became highly susceptible to the long ball (17.2% HR/FB rate) and suddenly lost his usually solid control (5.13 BB/9).

Johnson had recently worked out for the Orioles, which seemed a natural fit — except for the fact that the big league bullpen really did not have an opening. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweeted last night that Johnson had chosen to sign elsewhere. After taking on his $10MM salary by trade before the year, the A’s will still be responsible for the balance, less only the league minimum rate (for whatever stretch Johnson ends up spending in Detroit).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Price, Prado, Smyly, Johnson

Joe Kelly first found out that John Lackey was traded to the Cardinals on Twitter and, 15 minutes later, learned he was part of the package heading to the Red Sox in return, writes Rob Harms of the Boston Globe.  “Hectic,” Kelly said of the deadline’s personal impact on him. “It’s something that happens in baseball, and, like I said, it could happen to anyone. When I got the news I was definitely shocked and surprised, but I found out it was Boston, and I figured it was one great baseball town to another. So definitely looking forward to it.”  More out of the AL East..

  • Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman says that if he waited until the winter to deal David Price, the return would have been somewhere between “a good bit less to dramatically less,” writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  While some see their haul for the ace pitcher as light, Topkin says that in reality, they were pleased to get as much as they did.
  • There’s no reason for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to stop wheeling and dealing now, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox already have shipped out 11 of the 25 players who were on their World Series roster only nine months ago, but Lauber is dreaming big and thinking of names like Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Sale.
  • Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal breaks down the questions the Red Sox still need to answer in the aftermath of their recent roster maneuvers.
  • The Yankees are helping Martin Prado through his “strange” transition to a new team and new position, writes Brendan Kuty of the Star-Ledger.  Prado hadn’t taken a single practice fly ball in right field this season even though that’s his new spot. The veteran mostly played third base and left field while with the Braves and Diamondbacks.
  • While he knows that he has “very big” shoes to fill, Drew Smyly is excited to be a member of the Rays, Topkin writes.
  • Jim Johnson is now free to sign with any club after his release by the A’s Friday. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes the Orioles maintain a high level of interest in signing their former closer to a minor league deal, but are not the only team pursuing the right-hander.
  • Johnson will throw a side session for the Orioles tomorrow in Sarasota in front of rehab pitching coordinator Scott McGregor, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


AL East Notes: Shields, Cespedes, Johnson, Price

In his latest Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Buster Olney reports that he’s spoken to executives around the league who assume that the Red Sox will target James Shields in free agency this offseason.  Shields would be a good fit for a Boston team that is suddenly light on veteran pitching after Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy were all traded within the last week.  I wonder how high the Sox would be willing to bid on Shields, however, since the team’s concerns about paying big money to a pitcher throughout his 30′s kept them from working out an extension with Lester.  While Shields would come at a lower price and probably a shorter-term deal, Shields will also be 33 on Opening Day.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • A clause in Yoenis Cespedes‘ contract will allow him to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and according to Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (Twitter link), it means the Red Sox would have to non-tender their newly-acquired outfielder.  This would make Cespedes ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, and thus Boston wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation if Cespedes signed elsewhere.
  • The Athletics released Jim Johnson today, and there has been speculation that the Orioles will offer their former closer a minor league contract, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.  Manager Buck Showalter spoke highly of Johnson to reporters today, though he was careful with his words due to uncertainty about whether Johnson was free of any ties to Oakland.
  • The Rays plan to contend in 2015, which is why Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan (writing for FOXSports.com) feels the team felt comfortable trading David Price for a package highlighted by players — Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin — with Major League experience.  It’s unclear if any of the blue-chip prospects often cited in trade rumors were actually available for Price and such prospects might not pan out anyway, whereas Smyly and Franklin have already shown they can contribute at the big-league level.
  • Had the Rays waited until the offseason to trade Price, they might’ve had trouble finding a better return.  As one executive noted to ESPN’s Jayson Stark (Twitter link), Tampa would’ve been shopping Price in a crowded marketplace for ace pitchers given that Lester, Shields and Max Scherzer are all slated to be available in free agency.

Minor Moves: Thornburg, Johnson, Wilson

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Brewers moved right-hander Tyler Thornburg to the 60-day disabled list in order to create a 40-man roster spot for the newly-acquired Gerardo Parra, the club announced.  Thornburg has been on the DL since early June with an elbow injury and still seems weeks away from a return, if he pitches again in 2014 at all.
  • The Athletics released embattled former closer Jim Johnson, per a club announcement. Brought in via trade, Johnson failed to deliver on his $10MM salary. The A’s will be responsible for the rest of it, less the prorated league minimum rate if Johnson catches on with a new team.
  • The Athletics outrighted outfielder Kenny Wilson to Double-A yesterday, according to the MLB transactions page. The speedy 24-year-old outfielder has been no stranger to transactions this year, as he obviously holds appeal to clubs but is hard to keep on a 40-man roster.
  • Catching up on the always-shifting DFA rolls, the following players are currently in limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA tracker: Jake Elmore (Athletics), Nick Noonan and Jose De Paula (Giants), Juan Carlos Oviedo and Erik Bedard (Rays), Jeff Francis and Brian Roberts (Yankees), Josh Wall (Pirates), and Ryan Wheeler (Rockies).

Athletics Designate Jim Johnson For Assignment

12:04pm: The A’s announced that they have actually designated Johnson for assignment, not released him (though that could obviously be the ultimate outcome of the move). Evan Scribner has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to fill his roster spot.

11:55am: The A’s have released right-hander Jim Johnson, a source tells Jane Lee of MLB.com (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old Johnson was acquired by the A’s this offseason in a salary dump that sent Jemile Weeks and David Freitas to the Orioles. While many Baltimore fans were shaken by the deal after seeing Johnson lead the league in saves in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the move proved to be a wise decision by the O’s, as Johnson has struggled to a 6.92 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 56.8 percent ground-ball rate in 40 1/3 innings this season with Oakland. He lost his ninth-inning role to Sean Doolittle early in the season.

Johnson is earning $10MM in 2014 after avoiding arbitration for the final time this past winter. The A’s will eat the remaining $3.66MM on his contract if he is ultimately released. It seems unlikely that any team would claim him on waivers or trade for him as a result of that salary, though a team could show some interest if Oakland pays a large portion of the deal.


AL East Notes: Johnson, Price, Cardinals, Lester

A few weeks ago, the Orioles and Athletics discussed a trade that would’ve seen Jim Johnson return to Baltimore, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).  The Orioles were the ones who ultimately decided not to pursue the deal.  The A’s have been having trouble finding a trade partner for the struggling reliever, as prior talks with the Marlins also fell through.  Johnson wouldn’t have been returning to his old closer role with the O’s, as Zach Britton has been excellent as Baltimore’s ninth-inning stopper this season.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Rival officials see the Cardinals, Mariners and Dodgers as the three teams best positioned to acquire David Price from the Rays, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes.  In the Insider-only piece, Olney looks at the pros and cons for each club in making a big trade for Price.
  • Also from Olney (Twitter link), the concept of a trade for both Price and Evan Longoria has been mentioned by some in the Cardinals organization.  There is “zero indication” such a deal has been discussed with the Rays, however, and the idea could well just be idle front office brainstorming.
  • Signing Jon Lester to a contract extension may seem like a no-brainer on paper for the Red Sox, yet as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal illustrates, the team is worried by the long list of pitchers who suddenly declined or got injured in their early 30′s.

AL West Notes: Astros, Athletics, Johnson

The Astros have a perception problem, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Astros missed out on top overall pick Brady Aiken and another top pick, Jacob Nix, because of a disagreement about Aiken’s health. During part of the time they might have been negotiating with Aiken, Drellich points out, GM Jeff Luhnow was on vacation with his family in Mexico. That might not have had any bearing on their ability to sign Aiken, Drellich notes, but it doesn’t look good, and the Astros generally don’t get the “benefit of the doubt” with such matters.

Drellich also takes a close look at each party’s motivations as the Astros and Aiken tried to negotiate. He points out that, if Aiken goes to junior college and reenters the draft next year, it will be hard for Aiken to top the $5MM the Astros offered, given that the Astros themselves will have the No. 2 overall pick as a result of losing him, along with their own standard first-round pick, which will also be one of the early ones. For a player to get $5MM is very difficult under the new bonus pool system, especially with the Astros taking two very early picks. Here’s more from the AL West.

  • Astros scouting director Mike Elias is disappointed with the way the draft signing deadline went, Drellich writes. “I haven’t been very happy about anything to do with it, because of just the unfortunate situation that I think all parties found themselves in,” says Elias. “It’s something that I think we, and everyone involved with, will look forward to ultimately having behind us at some point.” Add the failures to sign Aiken, Nix and Mac Marshall to top 2013 pick Mark Appel‘s poor performance, and it’s a tough time all-around for Elias.
  • The Athletics would like to trade reliever Jim Johnson before the trade deadline, John Hickey of IBABuzz.com writes. The A’s don’t want to just cut him and swallow the rest of his salary, and they’re also having trouble drumming up interest in him. Johnson is a pitcher without a role — the A’s have been using him in low-leverage situations given his struggles this season, but even that is a problem, since he isn’t a multi-inning pitcher.