Jim Johnson Rumors
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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...
- Clayton Richard filed for $5.55MM while the Padres offered $4.905MM, according to CBSSports.com.
- Martin Prado filed for $7.05MM while the Braves countered with $6.65MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Sergio Romo filed for $4.5MM and the Giants countered at $2.675MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Max Scherzer filed at $7.4MM and the Tigers offered $6.05MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Jason Hammel filed at $8.25MM and the Orioles offered $5.7MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (on Twitter). Jim Johnson filed at $7.1MM and the Orioles countered at $5.7MM.
- Homer Bailey filed at $5.8MM and the Reds filed at $4.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jordan Zimmermann filed at $5.8MM and the Nationals offered $4.6MM, Heyman tweets.
- Dexter Fowler filed at $5.15MM with the Rockies offering $4.25MM, Heyman tweets
- Shin-Soo Choo filed at $8MM and the Reds offered $6.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Chase Headley filed for $10.3MM with the Padres countering at $7.075MM, Heyman tweets.
- Mat Latos asked for $4.7MM and the Reds offered $4.15MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jason Motte filed at $5.5MM and the Cardinals offered $4.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- David Murphy filed at $6.5MM and the Rangers offered $5.05MM, Heyman tweets.
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.
Links from the only division in baseball that featured three 90-win teams in 2012...
- Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he’s still looking to add a bat and, potentially, a reliever, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). The Rays could also settle some arbitration cases before Friday’s deadline for exchanging figures with eligible players.
- The Blue Jays seek a reliever for the back end of their bullpen, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link). Heyman suggests setup relievers such as free agents Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Capps, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth could be fits.
- The Orioles aren’t interested in trading J.J. Hardy to the Tigers for Rick Porcello, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if Baltimore would consider dealing closer Jim Johnson to acquire the 24-year-old ground ball pitcher.
- The Yankees were "fired up" to hear that they're on track get a compensatory draft pick for losing Rafael Soriano to the Nationals, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter).
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 McCann. Yadier 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.
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:
- The Braves and Eric O'Flaherty avoided arbitration, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. O'Flaherty will earn $2.49MM, just shy of his projected $2.6MM salary.
- The Orioles and Jim Johnson have avoided arbitration, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The right-hander will earn $2.625MM in 2012, just north of his projected $2.5MM salary.
- The Red Sox avoided arbitration with Franklin Morales, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets. The left-hander had a projected salary of $1MM and agreed to an $850K deal.
- The Rays avoided arbitration with J.P. Howell, agreeing to a $1.35MM deal for 2012, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. Matt Swartz had projected a $1.4MM salary for the left-hander.
- The Royals avoided arbitration with Chris Getz, agreeing to a $967,500 deal for 2012, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. Matt Swartz had projected a $1.2MM salary for the infielder.
- The Nationals announced they've avoided arbitration with catcher Jesus Flores. Flores, who is represented by Praver/Shapiro, received $815K, MLBTR has learned.
- The Brewers avoided arbitration with outfielder Nyjer Morgan, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The ACES client received $2.35MM, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
- The Royals announced they've avoided arbitration with catcher Brayan Pena, a client of Wasserman Media Group. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star says the deal is worth $875K; Matt Swartz had him at $900K.
- Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day avoided arbitration for a deal worth $1.35MM, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Matt Swartz had projected the same for the Beverly Hills Sports Council client.
- Yankees righty Phil Hughes agreed to a deal worth $3.2MM plus performance bonuses, tweets his agency CAA. The 25-year-old gets a $500K raise after a lost 2011 season.
- The Tigers announced they've avoided arbitration with lefty Phil Coke. Coke, a client of Full Circle Sports Management, gets a $1.1MM base salary with $50K in incentives for appearances or starts, MLBTR has learned.
- The Angels avoided arbitration with infielder Alberto Callaspo, signing him to a one-year deal worth $3.15MM, tweets ESPN's Keith Law. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz nailed this one, projecting a $3.1MM salary. Callaspo, a client of Eric Goldschmidt, received a $1.15MM raise for his second time through arbitration.
The Orioles announced a three-year deal with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen today, but that’s far from the only news to trickle out of Baltimore today. Here’s the latest on the club...
- Now that they’ve signed Chen, the Orioles are going forward with Jim Johnson in the bullpen, MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli tweets. Johnson, 28, posted a 2.67 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 91 innings of relief for Baltimore in 2011 and there's been talk of moving him to the rotation.
- The Orioles haven’t discussed a possible contract extension with Adam Jones, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Jones projects to earn $5.8MM or so in 2012 as a second time arbitration eligible player
- GM Dan Duquette has had contact with free agent Luke Scott, Ghiroli tweets. However, no deal appears to be brewing between the Orioles and Scott, who got non-tendered in December.
- Kubatko suggests Chen, Jeremy Guthrie and Tommy Hunter will be in next year's rotation and that hopefuls such as Zach Britton and Brian Matusz will have to earn their rotation spots by pitching well in Spring Training.