Jim Johnson Rumors

Orioles Notes: Wieters, McLouth, Beltran, Pitching

The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy-Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:

  • The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
  • Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
  • There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
  • Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
  • The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
  • One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
  • Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
  • There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante

AL East Notes: Johnson, Orioles, Blue Jays, Cano

 As the Rays fight to join the Red Sox in the postseason, let's take a look at the rest of the AL East:

  • The Orioles will tender a contract to closer Jim Johnson, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. Though Johnson has accumulated more saves than anyone in baseball over the last two seasons, the 30-year-old righty went through a rough stretch that made him look like a possible non-tender, especially given the high price he'll command in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
  • Baltimore GM Dan Duquette recently had what he termed an "informal meeting" with agent Scott Boras, the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reports. Among other O's, Boras represents two key younger Birds in catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis, each of whom is set to hit the open market after 2015. Though Duquette indicated that nothing significant has happened on the negotiation front, he said that working to lock up the team's "core group" was a priority that the team would work on over the winter.
  • There are a lot of roster decisions facing Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Particularly difficult, says Kennedy, are the questions whether or not to pick up first baseman/DH Adam Lind's option and what to do with catcher J.P. Arencibia in 2014.
  • The Jays' rotation, of course, was one of the team's most glaring disappointments this season. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca takes a closer look at the club's options heading into the offseason.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post provides the latest on soon-to-be free agent Robinson Cano, who Sherman says seems likely -- but not certain -- to stay in the Bronx.  “There is a lot that money can’t buy,” Cano said. “When Mo [Mariano Rivera] was a free agent, if he went somewhere else, then what happened [Thursday] could not have happened for him. But you have to understand that this is a business. The Yankees are going to do what is best for them, and I am going to do what is best for me and my family.”

Quick Hits: Jordan, Johnson, Manuel, Soriano, Baez

Let's have a look at a few stray notes before calling it an evening ...

  • Nationals starter Taylor Jordan will be shut down for the year after throwing a combined 142 innings in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. (For some reason, we've yet to hear of any outrage over the decision.) The 24-year-old emerged this season and became one of the few nice surprises for the sputtering Nats. With a 3.66 ERA over 51 2/3 innings, Jordan has certainly established himself as a viable rotation option for next year, which could impact the Nationals' off-season shopping plans. While Jordan registered only by 5.1 K/9 (against 1.9 BB/9), his FIP (3.48) and xFIP (3.79) backed up his solid results. 
  • With Orioles closer Jim Johnson continuing to struggle to finish games, CSN Baltimore's Rich Dubroff writes that he is increasingly becoming a non-tender candidate. Earning $6.5MM this year, Johnson should see a multi-million dollar raise through arbitration if the O's decide to hold onto him. (He does have 39 saves, best in baseball, to go with his league-worst 9 blown.) The team has a younger, cheaper option in Tommy Hunter who could step into the role, though Dubroff wonders if he can take on save chances with the same frequency as has Johnson.
  • Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details of the Phillies' firing of manager Charlie Manuel. The Phils' front office knew it was moving on without Manuel for months, says Gelb, but finally decided to pull the trigger now in order to have a look at his anticipated replacement, Ryne Sandberg. 
  • While the Yankees' acquisition of Alfonso Soriano drew a lot of criticism at the time, it is hard to complain about the performance he's put up since arriving in the Bronx. Depending upon how one works the statistics, in fact, his recent run is downright historic. In just 19 games with his new/old club, Soriano has racked up an outstanding 1.5 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference). Of course, the naysayers' concerns related more to the rest of the Yankees' team, and its reasonable prospects for the playoffs, than to Soriano himself. Sure enough, New York's playoff odds have continued to fall since the deal was consummated.  
  • Cubs' shortstop Javier Baez continues to tear the cover off of the ball as he ascends the minor-league ranks, making the 20-year-old a dark-horse candidate to earn a big league roster spot next year. As Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald writes, there are many good reasons (cost, control, and development among them) for the Cubs to be hesitant. Nevertheless, manager Dale Sveum noted, “when you have that kind of numbers and power, sometimes you do force the issue. It’s not in the plans right now, but we’ve all seen it happen.”

Orioles, Jim Johnson Avoid Arbitration

The Orioles and closer Jim Johnson have avoided arbitration with a one-year deal, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).  The Moye Sports Associates client will will make $6.5MM in 2013 with $50K more available in performance bonuses based on games finished, Connolly tweets.

The deal is right around the midpoint as Johnson filed for $7.1MM in arbitration while the Orioles countered with $5.7MM.  The new deal marks a significant raise for Johnson, who earned $2.625MM last season.

Johnson, 29, pitched to a 2.49 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 71 games, earning him his first career All-Star selection.  This was Johnson's third year of arbitration eligibility thanks to his Super Two status.  The right-hander is scheduled to exchange figures with the O's once more after the 2013 season and hit the open market after the 2014 campaign.

As MLBTR's Transactions Tracker shows, Darren O'Day and Jason Hammel are Baltimore's only remaining arbitration eligible players.  

Orioles Notes: Saunders, Jurrjens, Johnson

The Mariners agreed to sign Joe Saunders yesterday, which means the left-hander won’t be returning to Baltimore. Saunders and the Orioles had mutual interest in a new deal, but never reached an agreement. Here are the latest Orioles-related notes from Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun...

  • It appears the Orioles offered Saunders a one-year deal, Encina writes. Saunders said he wanted to return to Baltimore and the Orioles maintained interest in re-signing him throughout the winter.
  • The Orioles have yet to finalize their one-year, $1.5MM agreement with Jair Jurrjens, and there’s a chance the deal will fall through. The Orioles were still receiving medical evaluations on Jurrjens as of last night, Encina reports. It’s becoming unclear whether the deal will be completed and it doesn’t seem to be headed in a positive direction. Orioles executives have long-standing concerns about Jurrjens’ health.
  • It’s possible the Orioles could offer Jim Johnson a two-year deal to cover his final arbitration seasons. However, it seems more likely that the sides will settle on a one-year contract. Johnson filed for $7.1MM in arbitration with the Orioles offering $5.7MM, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. The Orioles have two other unsigned arb eligible players: Jason Hammel and Darren O’Day.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays and Braves are known for their 'file and trial' policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights -- players who filed for $4MM or more. Now for the details...

Arbitration Breakdown: Jim Johnson

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

After shuffling between different relief roles for a few years, Jim Johnson emerged in 2012 as the Orioles' full-time closer. He saved a league-best 51 games in just 54 chances as he helped the Orioles make the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century. The Orioles relied on him heavily, winning the AL Wild Card in large part due to their 29-9 record in one-run games, a feat in which Johnson played a large part. Johnson hurled 68 2/3 innings for the Orioles, keeping his ERA low at 2.49 to go along with his hefty save total.

The Orioles are about to be reminded that that type of performance doesn’t come for free, as the Moye Sports Associates client is likely to get a substantial raise on his $2.625MM salary from 2012. My arbitration model projects Johnson to get a $4.275MM raise in his third year of arbitration eligibility, all the way up to $6.9MM. This would be uncharted territory -- other than first-year eligible players, no reliever has ever gotten a raise larger than $3.5MM. While I suspect that Johnson may fall a little bit short of the model’s estimated $6.9MM salary, I think he will probably break the $3.5MM record.

Projecting closers’ arbitration salaries is not as hard as for many other types of players. Pitchers with at least 20 saves in their second, third, or fourth year of arbitration got raises ranging from $1.375-3.5MM over the last six years (2007-12) and a good rule of thumb is that the more saves a closer has, the bigger his raise will be. Other statistics matter far less; arbitration cases are very much about whether you got your individual job done, and the closer’s role is seen as saving games. More opportunities means more money -- avoiding blown saves (which Johnson happened to do) is not as important as racking up save totals when called upon.

Pitchers who had at least 20 but fewer than 35 saves received raises between $1.375-1.925MM, pitchers who had at least 35 but fewer than 40 saves receives raises between $2.0-3.1MM, and pitchers who had at least 40 saves received raises between $2.7-3.5MM. The relationship between saves totals and raises is clear -- other statistics mattered far less. Considering that the maximum number of saves of any of these closers was 47, it makes perfect sense that Johnson should expect to break Heath Bell’s record raise of $3.5MM in 2011 in Johnson’s third year of eligibility and with four more saves than Bell.

There have been three pitchers in the last six years to have at least 40 saves and get one-year contracts in their third year of arbitration eligibility, and all three of them received similar raises and will be the presumed comparables for Johnson’s case. After saving 40 games in 2007, Francisco Rodriguez got a $2.95MM raise; after saving 44 games in 2008, Jose Valverde got a $3.3MM raise; and after saving 47 games in 2010, Heath Bell got a $3.5MM raise. All three of them had a similar number of innings as Johnson had in 2012, with Johnson pitching through 68 2/3, Rodriguez throwing 67 1/3, Valverde with 72, and Bell with 70. Johnson’s 2.49 ERA topped Rodriguez’s 2.81 and Valverde’s 3.38, but fell short of Bell’s 1.93.

Since both Valverde’s and Rodriguez’s raises are less recent, Bell seems like a much better comparable, and given that his case took place two years ago and his saves total was smaller than Johnson’s, it is hard to imagine that that Johnson will fail to top Bell’s $3.5MM raise. Adding in two extra years of salary inflation and four extra saves, I think that Johnson should expect a raise of about $4MM. While my model thinks this will go all the way up to $4.275MM raise (and hence a $6.9MM salary), I think it might be hard to push for $775K more than Bell got. Johnson should still safely end up with over $6.5MM in 2013.

AL East Notes: Rays, Blue Jays, Johnson

Links from the only division in baseball that featured three 90-win teams in 2012...

East Notes: Davis, Gregg, Hellickson, McCann

Mets first baseman Ike Davis is being treated for a form of Valley Fever, though the team says Davis' infection is non-contagious and not very serious (via Mike Puma of the New York Post on Twitter).  Davis says he has yet to receive an official diagnosis and hasn't experienced any symptoms.  In recent years, Conor Jackson has also dealt with Valley Fever, missing most of the 2009 season with a more severe case of the infection.

Here are some (non-medical) news items from around both East divisions....

  • Jim Johnson seems to have enough of a lead over Kevin Gregg for the Orioles' closer job that Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports that Gregg could be traded if Johnson's back is healthy.  Gregg struggled in his first season in Baltimore and to move him, the O's would have to eat a big portion of Gregg's $5.8MM salary for 2012.
  • The Rays have renewed Jeremy Hellickson's contract for 2012, the team announced today.  Hellickson isn't eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season and is under team control through 2016.  The Rays also announced they had come to terms with 22 other players with less than three years of Major League experience, including such notable names as Desmond Jennings, Alex Cobb and Matt Joyce.  Tampa Bay's entire 40-man roster is now under contract for 2012.
  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks the Braves may have cost themselves by waiting to extend Brian McCannYadier Molina's five-year, $75MM extension with the Cardinals will probably raise the price for McCann to as much as $18-$20MM or even more per season.  O'Brien thinks AL teams have an advantage over the Braves if McCann hits free agency, since McCann wouldn't have to play the field in his later years if he went to the American League.  McCann is under contract through 2012 and the Braves hold a $12MM club option on the All-Star catcher for 2013.
  • The Blue Jays may be the best-positioned of any team to benefit from the expanded playoff format, writes ESPN's Jayson Stark.
  • The two East divisions boast seven of the top 16 fantasy pitchers in baseball, according to Mike Axisa's rankings for Roto Authority.  The Phillies alone have three pitchers in the top seven, including Roy Halladay in the top spot.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Monday

In advance of tomorrow's 11am central time deadline to exchange arbitration figures, settlements will be rolling in today.  Follow all of the action with MLBTR's arbitration tracker.  The latest for players under $4MM:

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