Jim Johnson Rumors

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.

AL West Notes: Preller, Gallo, Johnson, A’s

The AL West has three teams on pace for postseason play and is home to the two best records in baseball.  The 59-36 A’s hold a slim lead over the 57-37 Angels, while the Mariners’ 51-44 record gives them a 2.5 edge over the Royals and Blue Jays for the second AL wild card slot.  On the flip side, Houston (40-56) and Texas (38-57) hold the American League’s two worst records, with the Rangers’ eight-game losing streak dropping them to worst record in the game.

Here’s the latest from around the AL West…

  • Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller will receive a second interview for the Padres‘ general manager job, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Of the dozen or so candidates known to have interviewed for the job, Preller is thought to be the first to receive a second meeting with San Diego’s upper management team.
  • Also from Fraley, he notes that the Rangers are projected to draw around 400,000 fewer fans than last season, and he speculates this drop in attendance could impact the club’s 2015 payroll.
  • Joey Gallo‘s power was the talk of yesterday’s Futures Game, and WEEI.com’s Alex Speier is already wondering how the Rangers prospect could have fallen to the 39th pick of the 2012 draft.  The Red Sox, in particular, had two bonus compensation picks plus their own first-rounder with Gallo still on the board and yet passed on him all three times (drafting Deven Marrero, Brian Johnson and Pat Light instead).
  • When Drew Pomeranz is ready to return to the Athletics‘ 25-man roster, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle hints that the A’s could make room by parting ways with Jim Johnson.  The A’s nearly dealt Johnson to the Marlins last month and there have been reports that Oakland would be willing to eat most of Johnson’s remaining salary (approximately $4.2MM) in a trade.  Johnson has been a major disappointment in his first season as an Athletic, posting a 6.18 ERA and losing his closer’s job to Sean Doolittle.
  • The Athletics‘ seven All-Stars took some very different paths to get to Oakland, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes, which is a tribute to how creatively the team has built its first-place roster.

AL Notes: Zimmer, Fowler, Castro, Johnson, Coliseum

The baseball world suffered a notable loss today with the passing of Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer. It would be impossible to honor Zimmer’s legacy adequately in a brief note, but suffice it to say that he has been said to have “come as close to seeing it all as a baseball man can possibly come.” And that was over a decade ago.

Here’s the latest out of the American League:

  • The Astros formally completed their acquisition of Dexter Fowler from the Rockies by picking up an additional $25K, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday via Twitter. While that sum is obviously of marginal import, the results of that swap remain fascinating to follow. Fowler has put up a fairly typical (if less powerful than usual) .257/.375/.356 line as Houston’s everyday center fielder. Meanwhile, Jordan Lyles (3.46 ERA through 69 innings) and Brandon Barnes (.295/.339/.390 through 116 plate appearances) have both been productive, but have cooled of late.
  • Astros backstop Jason Castro said today that he has only had preliminary talks regarding an extension, none of which have been recent, reports Drellich“It’s something you try not to think about obviously during the season, but you know, I would love to be a part of the Astros moving forward,” he said. “Obviously it’s an exciting tie, and we’ll see what happens moving forward.” Castro has cooled dowwn from his .835 OPS 2013, posting a .230/.306/.383 triple-slash through 206 plate appearances this season. He is earning $2.45MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
  • It was reported earlier today that the Athletics nearly shipped deposed closer Jim Johnson to the Marlins. Conflicting reports later emerged about the nature of Oakland’s intentions going forward, both via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). While a rival rival executive told Rosenthal that the A’s were willing to eat all of Johnson’s remaining salary and had offered him to multiple clubs, an Oakland source later called that statement “a lie” and denied that Johnson was being shopped. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle later reported that the club would indeed be interested in moving Johnson “in the right deal,” and that the A’s might consider picking up most of the $6.5MM tab still owed on the 30-year-old righty.
  • Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff said recently that the club is close to inking a ten-year lease that would keep the team at the O.co Coliseum, Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. What that actually means is somewhat more difficult to assess, and Mark Purdy of the Mercury News breaks down what is known and what is yet to come. There is too much to cover to treat it sufficiently here, but the bottom line, according to Purdy, is that it is much too early to say that a new contract would put an end to the team’s efforts to find a new ballpark deal (let alone the possibility of that stadium landing in San Jose). Purdy further detailed the exceedingly complex situation in an earlier piece.

Marlins, A’s Nearly Completed Jim Johnson Trade Last Week

The Marlins raised some eyebrows by trading their Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 39 overall) to the Pirates last week in exchange for right-hander Bryan Morris and using the extra cash to sign Kevin Gregg. However, the team almost made an even larger acquisition, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who reports that Miami nearly sent the pick to the A’s in exchange for fallen closer Jim Johnson.

Oakland was willing to make the deal, according to Rosenthal, and they were also willing to pay a chunk of the nearly $6.5MM remaining on Johnson’s salary, with Miami including another player and remaining on the hook for at least the $1.4MM total of the draft slot. Ultimately, however, the Marlins went a different route.

Rosenthal notes that the A’s aren’t shopping Johnson but were willing to move the right-hander when approached by the Marlins, who were “aggressively” pursuing bullpen help. The 30-year-old Johnson has disappointed in his first season with the A’s, who acquired him from the Orioles in the offseason.

After back-to-back 50-save seasons, Johnson has pitched to a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings and lost the closer’s job to Sean Doolittle. Johnson has seen his walk and strikeout rates trend in the wrong direction, but he’s also been plagued by a .390 BABIP. His ground-ball rate remains elite, and his velocity hasn’t declined, so the Marlins likely figured that he could rebound to something closer to his previous form with the O’s. Indeed, sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (3.65), xFIP (4.42) and SIERA (4.10) all feel that he’s been vastly better than his ERA indicates. A move to the National League likely would be of benefit as well.

Perhaps the Marlins felt that they’d prefer to save some money and take a chance on two relievers rather than one. They may have thought the player going back to Oakland in the proposed deal was too steep a price to pay in the end. Their ultimate line of thinking isn’t clear, but Rosenthal’s report does suggest that the 30-28 Marlins do feel they can compete even without the likes of Jose Fernandez in the rotation.