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Kelly Johnson Rumors
Here are some notes from the GM Meetings as team owners and presidents check in to Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel in anticipation of the quarterly Owners Meetings:
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is strongly considering re-signing free agent second baseman Kelly Johnson. “There’s a lot of scenarios and ways that we could go and bringing Kelly back is certainly one of them,” Anthopoulos said. He declined to comment on possible changes to the Elias rankings system, but it’s something the Blue Jays will monitor closely given the many ranked free agents they have this offseason. Johnson is a Type A free agent, but he may become a Type B under the upcoming CBA.
- The Blue Jays would like to add starting pitching, but they don’t intend to force an acquisition, since they consider it more of a want than a need. “If we can get a front-to-mid-rotation starter, we’d love to do that,” Anthopoulos told MLBTR. “At the same time I think every team would tell you the same thing. Everyone’s going to look for that.”
- Carlos Zambrano met with Cubs president Theo Epstein this week to discuss his future with the team. GM Jed Hoyer says the Cubs are still in the process of determining how the right-hander fits in to the 2012 plan. “He’s in very good shape,” Hoyer said. “He had a very good lunch with Theo the other day. He’s had some incidents here — we can’t ignore the past, but at the same time we talked about a lot of things we can do. It’s too early to make a decision, but so far it’s been positive.”
Links for Wednesday night as the Rangers and Cardinals get the World Series started in St. Louis…
- When Rangers GM Jon Daniels was trying to break into baseball, he applied for an internship with the Red Sox, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Ben Cherington, now Boston's GM-in-waiting, was in charge of hiring a new intern for the Red Sox and he chose Jed Hoyer, now the Padres' GM, over Daniels. “I remember [Daniels'] quick mind and intelligence and I thought he had a resilience about him,” Cherington told Speier.
- The Blue Jays scouted at least eight of C.J. Wilson's starts this season, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun (on Twitter). The Jays could use starting pitching, as I explained earlier in the week, but their scouting trips may simply have been due diligence.
- Kelly Johnson of the Blue Jays chatted with FanGraphs' David Laurila about the challenge of changing leagues and the way he uses stats and video to improve his game.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney hears that MLB isn't close to adding a slotting system for draft bonuses in the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. Executives doubt that Bud Selig would "dig in and fight" for slotting, since it could mean a prolonged dispute.
Blue Jays prospect Travis d'Arnaud will have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb after getting hurt while catching for Team USA at the World Cup in Panama, reports Bob Elliott of The Toronto Sun (on Twitter). Toronto acquired d'Arnaud from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade, and he's considered one of the very best prospects in all of baseball. Here are some links from the AL East…
- Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com says one of the first things the Blue Jays have to do this offseason is figure out if Kelly Johnson fits into their long-term plans. "I thought Kelly did a nice job, and he's definitely in the mix for us," said GM Alex Anthopoulos. "We have an opening, he is a free agent, and in the coming weeks, we'll certainly reach out to his agent and talk to him, but it's hard to characterize where any of that is going to go."
- The Orioles may expand their GM search beyond the names that have already been mentioned, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun says regardless of who is hired, their first priority will be fixing the team's player development system.
- In another tweet, Olney speculates about a possible fit between the Blue Jays and David Ortiz. The soon-to-be-free agent DH would be a veteran mentor for their younger hitters, and he's close to Jose Bautista.
Blue Jays president Paul Beeston sat down with Richard Griffin of the the Toronto Star to talk about the state of the club, free agents coming north of the border, and even his own contract. Here are some highlights..
- Beeston was reluctant to tip his cap on whether or not the Blue Jays will make a run at Yu Darvish, but he did say that "I think those people at Rogers who never heard of him before, now know this player is in existence." Despite that, he has yet to inform ownership that he is ready to spend extra payroll dollars.
- Beeston said that he's happy for the ex-Jays that made it to the postseason this year with other clubs. Ultimately, he says that there's no way of knowing if the Blue Jays would have made it to the playoffs if they still had players such as Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum, John McDonald, and Aaron Hill in the fold.
- When discussing Hill, Beeston said, "I think that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] had determined that he wanted to make a move with Aaron." Toronto shipped Hill and McDonald to the Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson in an August trade.
- Halladay "made it quite clear" that he was not going to re-sign with the Blue Jays after the 2010 season.
- The Blue Jays didn't make a serious run at Cliff Lee in free agency last year and Beeston believes that doing so would have been a "waste of time".
- Even though the senior people at Rogers aren't baseball fans, Beeston still keeps them informed of major decisions. For example, Beeston discussed the Halladay trade with management before pulling the trigger. Beeston says that Rogers has yet to interfere with or object to a front office decision.
- At a fan get-together in February, Beeston said that the club could possibly spend up to $120MM on payroll. Beeston clarified those comments and says that the $120MM figure is in reference to salaries on the 40-man roster and not including draft bonuses and international free agency.
- That uptick in payroll could happen this year or next year. Beeston plans on adding a big piece at the right time for the right price. He later added that the team first has to show that they can contend before they can land the premier free agents on the open market.
- The Blue Jays have built up the farm system and they're reassured of their talent by the amount of inquiries they get from other teams. The Colby Rasmus trade showed that the club could afford to trade several attractive pieces without mortgaging their future.
- Rumors of Beeston re-upping his contract through 2015 are not true. In fact, he says that he hasn't talked to anyone about an extension of his current deal.
- Beeston said that he sees an opening in the AL East because of the uncertainty in Boston, aging stars in New York, and limited capital in Tampa Bay.
- Even though attendance in down in Toronto, revenue continues to grow for the organization. The belief is that the pace will pick up once the team is contending again.
The AL East winner has had at least 95 wins every year since 2000 and the Blue Jays haven't had more than 87 wins during that stretch. Toronto finished fourth in the American League East with an 81-81 record this year, so they have some improving and developing to do before they make their first playoff appearance since 1993.
GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the 2011 season this afternoon. Here are some highlights, from video on the Blue Jays' site:
- Anthopoulos declined to discuss his contract in detail, but said he's happy in Toronto. "I expect to be here as long as they want me here," he said.
- Anthopoulos likes the humility and drive to improve that first-year manager John Farrell showed this season. To see how Farrell and other new managers did in 2011, click here.
- The Blue Jays haven't decided how they'll approach Edwin Encarnacion ($3.5MM option, $500K buyout) and Frank Francisco (free agent) after the season. I predicted this month that they'll pick up Encarnacion's option.
- Kelly Johnson, who hits free agency in a month, did a "nice job" and is a possibility for the Blue Jays in 2012. The Blue Jays will reach out to his representatives this month.
- The Blue Jays would like to improve their rotation, but won't likely be shopping for back-of-the-rotation types.
- Anthopoulos says the Rays are arguably the best-run organization in sports and says they do "everything right."
- Anthopoulos suggested that the Blue Jays don't have the internal pitching depth to improve the bullpen as much as they hope to, so expect him to acquire relievers via trades or free agent signings.
Links from the AL East, on a night that the Rays are taking on the Orioles and rooting hard for the Blue Jays to defeat the Red Sox. The latest links from their division…
- The Blue Jays and Orioles aren’t in the pennant race, but there’s lots of intrigue in Toronto and Baltimore as the season winds down, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes.
- Within the piece (which is well worth your time) Kepner notes that the Blue Jays plan to offer arbitration to Kelly Johnson after the season and hears that Jeremy Guthrie would like to pitch 1,000 more Major League innings.
- Johnson, who has a .210/.290/.408 line in 555 plate appearances with the D'Backs and Blue Jays, projects as a Type A free agent in the American League, according to our latest rankings. I won't be surprised if he accepts arbitration, but there are no guarantees for the Blue Jays since this year's class of free agent second basemen isn't strong.
- Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox will play out the 2011 season and will likely undergo offseason surgery for a hernia, as Alex Speier writes at WEEI.com.
Twins minor leaguer Kyle Gibson, the No. 22 overall draft pick in 2009, will undergo Tommy John surgery, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Best wishes to Gibson on making a full recovery and perhaps debuting in the Majors late in 2012.
Here are a few other items of note on this Thursday afternoon:
- The Brewers were interested in acquiring lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles before Baltimore dealt him to Texas, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “We had the irons in the fire,” Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said. The Brew Crew remains without a southpaw in their bullpen.
- The Diamondbacks were among the five winners of August's post-deadline trade period, opines Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Arizona shored up its infield by acquiring infielders John McDonald and Aaron Hill from Toronto in exchange for Kelly Johnson. Morosi's other winners: The Rangers, Tigers, Braves and Indians.
- Impending free agents, however established they may be, should still be scouted dilligently, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). For example, though some of us may take it for granted that Albert Pujols' fractured wrist is fully healed, scouts from interested teams will be watching all of his final at-bats for even the slightest change in his swing or approach. After all, Bowden explains, with tens, and sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars at stake, every bit of info helps.
Talk of draft pick compensation, club options and future salaries is valid after any trade, including the one the Diamondbacks just made with the Blue Jays. But the D’Backs didn’t make this move with an eye on future seasons or drafts.
“This deal was really made with a focus on ‘how do we get better for the next five weeks and stay ahead of the Giants’,” GM Kevin Towers explained this evening on a conference call with reporters.
Ever since Stephen Drew’s season ended, the D’Backs have been short-handed up the middle. They wanted to rely on Willie Bloomquist less, so Towers and the Blue Jays discussed Aaron Hill, someone the D’Backs have been eyeing for a while. The second baseman isn’t having much of a season at the plate, but Towers says his power could return against National League pitching.
“We’re hoping that a change of scenery can not only spark our club, but spark these two guys,” Towers said, referring to Hill and John McDonald.
Even if Chase Field doesn’t coax extra base power out of Hill, who has a 36-homer season to his name, Towers won’t mind. The deal, which included the versatile McDonald, was about defense. Though Towers didn't express disappointment in Kelly Johnson’s defense, he did say he's looking forward to adding the pair of former Blue Jays to his infield.
Hill has two $8MM team options for 2012-13, yet they aren't a major consideration for the D'Backs at this point at this point. It was “doubtful” that Johnson (pictured) would have returned after 2012, according to Towers, so the D’Backs were willing to part with him for Hill, regardless of whether Hill returns to Arizona in 2012.
That Hill and McDonald strike out less than Johnson (132 Ks this year) is a bonus for Towers, who has been looking to reduce Arizona’s strikeout totals since last year. Plus, they’re two “great guys” who drew personal praise from Diamondbacks people and others in baseball.
For the two nice guys to finish first, the D’Backs will have to maintain their current one-game lead over the defending World Champion Giants. Arizona could even obtain more help this month, since Towers may not be done dealing yet.
“We’ll keep working the phone lines until the end,” he said.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
The Blue Jays completed a trade with the Diamondbacks today, sending Aaron Hill and John McDonald to Arizona for Kelly Johnson. Here's the latest news from the AL East, starting with a note on today's trade…
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that Hill and McDonald cleared waivers earlier in the month (Twitter link). The deal started when Arizona GM Kevin Towers called about McDonald.
- Anthopoulos says he acquired Johnson from the D'Backs to get an up-close look at him before deciding how aggressively to pursue him this offseason when he hits free agency, according to Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com takes us inside Boston's front office in a must-read look at how the Red Sox approached the signing deadline. “Between 11:50 and 12 it was straight chaos,” one person told Speier. “Five people were on the phone at the same time with five different agents negotiating five different deals.”
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post explains that MLB teams, even rich ones like the Yankees, have to develop their own starting pitching, since the few elite starters who do reach free agency are prohibitively expensive.
- The Yankees have scouted Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish heavily, according to Sherman. Darvish, 25, "is coming" to the Major Leagues this offseason, according to one of Sherman's sources.
The Diamondbacks acquired second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop John McDonald from the Blue Jays for Kelly Johnson, tweets John Gambadoro Sports 620 KTAR. Both teams confirmed the trade in a press release.
Johnson, a favorite of Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, has slumped to .209/.287/.412 in 481 plate appearances this year. He has $1.16MM remaining on his contract and projects as a high Type B in the National League. He's probably still at least a B in the AL, which has to be Toronto's motivation in acquiring the impending free agent.
Hill, 29, has been worse than Johnson at .225/.270/.313 in 429 plate appearances. His $8MM club option is expected to be declined after the season, at which point he'd be a Type B free agent. I'm not sure what Anthopoulos gets out of the swap. Maybe he thinks Johnson will be a Type A and will decline arbitration, or maybe he's just more inclined to offer arbitration to Johnson than Hill. Or, maybe he hopes to extend Johnson cheaply. Hill has about $990K remaining on his contract. McDonald, a defensive whiz, has about $300K remaining, so the money is pretty close.
From Arizona's point of view, McDonald can pitch in at shortstop with Willie Bloomquist, since Stephen Drew is out for the season. As for liking Hill over Johnson, perhaps GM Kevin Towers feels a change of scenery will help, or he prefers Hill's defense.