Kelly Johnson Rumors
Over the last ten games, the Rays share a league-best 8-2 mark. Here are a few notes on the team as it looks to carry that momentum and regain its footing in a challenging AL East:
- The triceps strain that sent ace David Price to the DL could have major short and long-term implications for the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, with Price now battling an injury after already struggling on the mound to start the season, the team is holding its breath that it will have its top pitcher in good form for a postseason run. But even more troubling, the injury could have a huge impact on the Rays' long-term plans. Topkin explains that Tampa Bay likely cannot afford to extend Price after giving a major contract to Evan Longoria. Instead, as with Matt Garza and James Shields, an eventual trade of Price seems likely. Not only will the injury likely foreclose a trade deadline deal this season (however unlikely that was to begin with), but could significantly downgrade Price's trade value next offseason. As Topkin notes, even if Price returns strong, this blip on the radar could suppress the willingness of trade partners to offer the truly monumental prospect haul that Price was expected to garner.
- As expected, Jake Odorizzi will take Price's spot in the rotation for the time being, reports Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com. Odorizzi, of course, was acquired by the Rays -- along with the even higher-regarded Wil Myers and two other prospects -- in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. With Shields off to a fine start for the Royals, Odorizzi's ascension to the bigs will allow the Rays to begin adding production to their side of the ledger.
- Meanwhile, the Rays' success remains predicated, as ever, on executive vice president Andrew Friedman's uncanny ability to reclaim and restore veteran ballplayers. In particular, the club has stayed above .500, in spite of the surprising struggles of its pitching staff, by hitting above expectations. (The team is tied for third in all of baseball for team batting wins above replacement.) As Topkin writes, a major piece of the Rays' sudden offensive prowess is the much-maligned James Loney. Making only $2MM on a one-year deal, Loney is raking in Tampa, hitting .359/.415/.523 in his first 143 plate appearances. Since he showed the promise of this kind of production as a 23-year-old in 2007, the now-29-year-old has largely disappointed. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay banked on Loney's long-observed skill, and he has finally come through.
- Topkin goes on to list and describe several other successful Friedman reclamation projects, including relievers Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and Fernando Rodney, as well as infielders Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena. Of course, the Rays are hoping that Rodney can turn around his poor start and at least approach his incredible 2012 season.
- Another player that could be added to that list is Kelly Johnson, 31, who has played all over the diamond this year for the Rays while posting a .273/.348/.496 line in 138 plate appearances. This level may be surprising given Johnson's mediocre 2011-12 seasons, but as the Rays were no doubt aware, Johnson has at least three seasons under his belt (2007, 2008, 2010) as a productive big league hitter. With the team on the hook for only a modest one-year, $2.45MM investment, a veteran gamble has once again paid big dividends to Tampa Bay.
- According to Fangraphs' WAR measurements, Loney and Johnson have been the 42nd and 62nd most valuable hitters (respectively) in baseball this year. With Loney's relative youth and Johnson's ability to play second base, continued production from these players could make them very interesting free agent cases in 2014.
The Rays allowed the fewest runs of any MLB team in 2012, posting a team ERA of 3.19. Here’s the latest on the 2013 version of the club...
- Wil Myers probably won't start the season at the MLB level, but he's still expected to make an impact with the Rays in 2013, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he's hesitant to create oversized expectations for young players. “The first impression has been very strong. So we’re anxious to spend the next four or five weeks around him and continue his development,” Friedman added.
- The Rays will have extended control over Myers if they delay his debut, as I showed last week. The Rays acquired the 22-year-old in the deal that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City.
- Bill Chastain of MLB.com notes that second baseman Kelly Johnson and shortstop Yunel Escobar will become the first middle infielders to start together for three different teams since Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino, who did it for the Mets, Indians, Giants and Astros. Johnson and Escobar also played together with the Braves and Blue Jays.
The MLBPA announced that Dave Prouty has been promoted to the position of general counsel, replacing executive director Michael Weiner in that role. The 54-year-old Prouty becomes the fourth general counsel in the history of the MLBPA. “I am confident that Dave will excel in his new role and that the players will continue to receive the high level of legal representation they have come to expect from their union,” Weiner said. Here are some links from around MLB...
- While emphasizing that GM Brian Sabean decides which players to sign, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy won't rule out a return for Brian Wilson, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. "I can't say that [Wilson] will be back." But, Bochy added, "I can't say the door's closed on Brian Wilson. ... I don't think that's completely shut."
- The Mets are still hopeful on Michael Bourn and General Manager Sandy Alderson talking about him publicly is a positive sign, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. However, nothing appears to be imminent between the club and the top remaining free agent left on the open market.
- In an appearance on ESPN Dallas’ the Ben & Skin Show, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said he hopes to stay in Texas long-term (story via Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com). However, the Scott Boras client said he’s prepared to “see what happens” when his contract expires following the 2014 season. “We’re still talking about it. That’s all I can say. For sure, I would love to stay here.”
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti suggested on MLB Network that free agent third baseman Scott Rolen will "probably end up some other place than Los Angeles,"Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. The Dodgers had “some interest” in bringing Rolen on to provide depth at the corner infielder positions, Colletti acknowledged.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times has the details on the incentives included in the contracts for Kyle Farnsworth and Kelly Johnson. The Rays announced their deals with both players yesterday.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The newest member of the Rays organization, Kelly Johnson, spoke with reporters on a conference call earlier today about his signing with Tampa Bay. The veteran second baseman/outfielder said he respected the Rays way of playing baseball under manager Joe Maddon, which made joining the franchise an easy decision. "I wasn't surprised they were interested. I knew if I wanted to go to Tampa I had to be willing to move around. They called and I was happy hear from them."
Here is what's happening around the league...
- Scott Boras denied his involvement with the planting of a rumor about his client Jose Valverde and an imminent deal with the Marlins, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- Mychal Givens will no longer play shortstop in the minors for the Orioles, but rather try his hand at pitching, writes Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty has yet to hear any updates from Scott Rolen while he remains at a stalemate with his four remaining arbitration-eligible players, says Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
- Francisco Liriano's deal with the Pirates remains on track to become official, but will not do so until his non-throwing arm heals so the veteran can take a physical, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
- Derek Lowe will wait to see what other offers come his way after passing on a minor league deal from the Rockies, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post (on Twitter).
The Rays announced that they have signed second baseman Kelly Johnson to a one-year deal. The SFX client will earn $2.45MM in 2013, according to the team.
The addition of Johnson will allow Tampa Bay to play Ben Zobrist in right field, but the club is expected to still use Zobrist at second base at times and Johnson may play some outfield, Ken Rosenthal tweets. Johnson, who turns 31 next month, hasn't played in the outfield since his debut season in 2005 with the Braves.
Johnson hit .225/.313/.365 with 16 homers in 581 plate appearances for the Blue Jays in 2012. For his career, Johnson owns a .255/.338/.429 slash line across seven seasons.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported the agreement.
The latest from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links)...
- The Marlins and Rays are among the possibilities for Bobby Abreu, Heyman reports. Abreu, 38 in March, hopes to extend his career following an unremarkable offensive season in 2012.
- The Blue Jays are still in the bullpen market along with the Mets, Heyman reports. The Marlins, Astros and Dodgers might also be involved in pursuit of relievers, Heyman adds. Here are the details on the Mets’ bullpen targets.
- The Rays will likely officially announce their deals with Kyle Farnsworth, Luke Scott and Kelly Johnson next week, Heyman reports.
Free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez is getting his right meniscus repaired by one of the Marlins’ team doctors this Wednesday, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio reports (Twitter links). The right-hander is expected to be throwing at full strength within two to three weeks. Though seven teams have expressed serious interest in Vazquez, he has not made a decision about playing in 2013 as of now. Here are some more links from around MLB...
- Right-hander Scott Atchison expects to sign a minor league deal with a team other than the Red Sox this week, writes MLB.com's Evan Drellich. Atchison told Drellich it the team he's closing in on will give him a good chance to make the Major League bullpen. Atchison was diagnosed with a partial UCL tear last August but has had "great results" in letting it heal with rest and rehab.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Pirates expressed interest in Freddy Garcia, but the 36-year-old hurler elected to sign a minor league deal with the Padres instead.
- Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers have officially agreed to a 25-year, $7 billion TV deal, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reports. The agreement will lead to the creation of a new regional sports network for the Los Angeles area; SportsNet L.A will launch in 2014.
- The Rays signed free agent infielder Kelly Johnson today, but that won’t stop Ben Zobrist from playing “a lot” of second base for Tampa Bay, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). Johnson, who played 79 games in left field as a rookie in 2005, will bounce around.
- Michael Bourn still wants a five-year deal, yet the Mets aren't willing to go there, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (on Twitter). Here’s an explanation of how the Mets wanted to sign Bourn while keeping their first round draft pick this coming season.
Despite indications to the contrary, the Twins never called to inquire about the availability of pitcher Anibal Sanchez, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500. Sanchez, of course, re-signed with the Tigers for five years and $80MM earlier this offseason. Here's more out of Minnesota, courtesy of Wolfson..
- The Twins still have interest in free agent outfielder Scott Podsednik, but they're not looking to sign free agent outfielder Ryan Sweeney. We recently learned that the Mets aren't among the teams in on Podsednik. The club had brief talks with Sweeney's representatives earlier in the winter.
- Minnesota had interest in signing free agent starter Freddy Garcia in December but they haven't checked in on him since. The Twins have also cut off contact with free agent pitcher Manny Parra. The Twins, along with the Reds and Rockies, were said to be interested in Garcia late last year.
- The Twins have not inquired about free agent shortstop Jason Bartlett, nor free agent second baseman Kelly Johnson.
- The Twins never made an offer to shortstop Cesar Izturis, who signed a minor league deal with the Reds on Wednesday. General Manager Terry Ryan & Co. never had an interest in free agent starter Aaron Cook before he signed with the Phillies either.
- Minnesota could have free agent starter Armando Galarraga on a minor league deal but aren't interested in him. The right-hander hooked on with the Astros on a minor league contract last year after being cut by the Orioles.
MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm provides a look at the Blue Jays upcoming offseason and tackles a host of free agent issues in the process:
- Of the team's four free agents -- Kelly Johnson, Brandon Lyon, Jason Frasor and Carlos Villanueva -- the most likely to return is Frasor or Lyon. The bullpen has become a position of depth, however, with the acquisitions of Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln. Sergio Santos should return in 2013 as well. That could mean all four free agents will find new homes.
- The team has no interest in shopping Ricky Romero and selling on the left-hander when his value is at an all-time low.
- There doesn't appear to be much interest in retaining Johnson, according to Chisholm. The team once had eyes on bringing Marco Scutaro back to Toronto, but his torrid run with the Giants has likely made him too spendy. Instead, Adeiny Hechavarria or Mike Aviles could take the role.
- The Blue Jays aren't willing to give Villanueva a multi-year deal and an opportunity to pitch out of the rotation -- two things that the free agent is seeking. He'll likely pitch elsewhere in 2013.
- Anibal Sanchez will probably get an "extended look," according to Chisholm, but it's more likely that GM Alex Anthopoulos will upgrade the rotation via trade.
The Blue Jays plan to shop aggressively for upgrades this offseason, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The team will seek solutions in the starting rotation, at second base and in left field.
The Blue Jays are unlikely to re-sign Kelly Johnson after a disappointing season from the 30-year-old second baseman, Rosenthal reports. And Yunel Escobar, who recently served a three-game suspension for writing a homophobic slur under his eyes, “is a goner,” according to Rosenthal.
The Blue Jays are short on veterans to guide the team’s younger players in Rosenthal’s opinion. A free agent such as Torii Hunter would be a fit in Toronto, Rosenthal writes. GM Alex Anthopoulos will consider the possibility of adding experienced contributors.
“I don’t think it ever hurts to have as many veteran complements as you can,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s something we’ll definitely look to do if we can.”