Kelly Johnson Rumors

AL East Notes: Valentine, Wilson, Howell, Johnson

Here are some notes from the AL East on the day the Red Sox officially introduced their new manager…

  • The Red Sox and manager Bobby Valentine agreed on a two-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).  The Red Sox hold team options on Valentine for 2014 and 2015, tweets WEEI.com's Alex Speier.
  • Valentine reached out to David Cone about becoming the new Red Sox pitching coach, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).  Cone isn't expected to take the job but was "flattered."
  • The Yankees turned down a request by C.J. Wilson's agent for a visit to Yankee Stadium, reports ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand.  That's not a good sign for Wilson's chances of signing with the Bombers, which Marchand believes are "less than five percent."
  • Erik Hahmann of the DRaysBay blog looks at the situation between the Rays and lefty J.P. Howell.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes listed Howell as one of this winter's non-tender candidates.
  • The Blue Jays are still open to bringing back Kelly Johnson next year, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • Also from Morosi, he thinks the Blue Jays could — and should — sign free agent first baseman Prince Fielder.
  • Eric Chavez definitely wants to play in 2012 and a number of teams have strong interest in him, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Some West Coast teams are interested in Chavez and the Yankees appear to be in the mix as well.
  • The Rays have some interest in Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, but probably can’t afford him, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (on Twitter).
  • The Orioles hired former Phillies GM Lee Thomas as a special assistant, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com first mentioned the possibility (on Twitter). It's worth noting that Scott Proefrock and Joe Jordan of the Phillies are former Orioles front office employees.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Free Agent Stock Watch: Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson’s free agent stock has improved considerably in the past week and it has nothing to do with his ability to contribute on a baseball field. The MLBPA announced on Tuesday that teams will no longer have to forfeit draft picks to sign six Type A free agents and, fortunately for Johnson, he was on the list.

Kelly Johnson

Heading into the offseason, it seemed likely that Johnson’s Type A ranking would limit his free agent value. His offense dropped off in 2011 (.222/.304/.413 line with 21 homers), so teams might not have wanted to surrender a top draft pick for the 29-year-old. But thanks to the players association, all that’s required to sign Johnson is money.

So far this offseason, middle infielders such as Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, Aaron Hill and John McDonald have all signed multiyear deals. Omar Infante agreed to a similar contract before officially hitting free agency. Johnson’s career .260/.343/.441 line trumps the others and he’s younger than every one of the infielders mentioned except Hill (Johnson and Hill were born less than a month apart).

Johnson's representatives at SFX will likely make the case that he is a complete player who contributes on defense (above-average UZR in 2010 and 2011), with his power (47 home runs in 2010-11), by getting on base (.343 career OBP) and on the basepaths (double-digit steals in three of the past four seasons). There's a good chance teams like the Blue Jays, Tigers, Cubs and Rockies consider Johnson the best remaining free agent option in a thinned-out second base market.

Given the abundance of two-year deals for second basemen so far this offseason and the fact that Johnson won’t cost a draft pick, he figures to obtain two-year offers. If he’s looking for a two-year deal, I expect he could sign for more than the $11MM Hill obtained. Alternatively, he could accept arbitration or seek a one-year deal with a higher base salary and attempt to position himself for a bounce-back season and a major free agent contract a year from now at the age of 30.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


American League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll update them in this post throughout the day in advance of the 11pm central time deadline.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 57 Type A/B free agents and their teams' decisions in real-time, click here

Updated team decisions:

Teams with decisions still due:



Modified Procedure For Type A Free Agents

Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Hernandez and Darren Oliver were all Type A free agents under the Elias Rankings system, but they will now be treated as Type B free agents, the MLBPA announced. Teams won't have to surrender draft picks to sign them, but the players' former teams obtain a supplementary first round pick whether or not they offer arbitration tomorrow.

Meanwhile, clubs won't have to surrender a draft pick to sign one of the following six players: Heath Bell, Michael Cuddyer, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Madson, Josh Willingham and Francisco Rodriguez. Teams that lose these players after offering arbitration will obtain first round picks in the slot before the signing team plus a supplementary draft pick for a total of two selections.

Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Roy Oswalt, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins were also Type A free agents this offseason. They will cost one draft pick to sign. Their teams will obtain two total picks if they decline offers of arbitration to sign elsewhere, as expected. Takashi Saito and Carlos Beltran, two other Type As, cannot be offered arbitration. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the changes.


GM Meetings Notes: Kelly Johnson, Carlos Zambrano

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.”

Quick Hits: Red Sox, Wilson, Johnson, CBA

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.

AL East Links: Johnson, Orioles, Ortiz

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 Beeston On Darvish, Lee, Payroll

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.

Anthopoulos Talks Encarnacion, Francisco, Johnson

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.

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Orioles, Youkilis

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.