Nick Johnson Rumors

Nick Johnson Retires

Oft-injured first baseman Nick Johnson has elected to retire, according to WFAN's Sweeny Murti (Twitter link). The 34-year-old Johnson appeared in 38 games for the Orioles in 2012, posting a .207/.324/.391 batting line with four home runs.

Johnson will be remembered as an on-base machine thanks to a keen eye at the plate that helped him produce a .268/.399/.441 career batting line. His 15.7% walk rate is the 29th-highest mark of any player in baseball history with at least 3,000 plate appearances.

He appeared in 832 Major League games between the Yankees, Expos/Nationals, Marlins and Orioles. His production was limited by a host of injuries, most notably a broken femur and a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. The former third-round pick earned just over $29MM over parts of 10 Major League seasons, according to Baseball Reference.


AL East Notes: Jeter, Morse, Red Sox, Duquette

The Yankees could have another tricky negotiation with Derek Jeter on the horizon, writes Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.  Jeter is entering the last guaranteed year of his current deal and he holds a 2014 player option worth $9.5MM ($8MM in base salary plus $1.5MM that Jeter has thus far earned in incentives).  If Jeter comes back from offseason ankle surgery and continues to hit well, the Yankee icon will surely be looking for a longer commitment beyond 2014.  Knowing the Yankees' stance on extensions, however, I'd expect the team to not discuss another deal with Jeter until after the 2014 season, when Jeter will be 40 years old and the Bombers will have a better idea if their captain is worth another multiyear contract.

Here are the latest items from around the AL East…

  • The Yankees have "nothing alive" with the Nationals in regards to a deal for Michael Morse, reports Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog (Twitter link).  New York was one of several teams interested in Morse, who has been on the trade block since the Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche.
  • In an interview on WEEI radio's Hot Stove Show (partial transcription from WEEI.com's Kirk Minihane), Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that there is no news about the team and Mike Napoli.  The Sox are continuing to talk with Napoli while also exploring other options at first base.
  • Speaking of those first base options, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox "have explored" signing Casey Kotchman and Nick Johnson and also checked in with the Mariners about a trade for Justin Smoak.
  • The Orioles are looking for pitching depth as they head into Spring Training, executive VP Dan Duquette tells MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.  Though the O's haven't made any major transactions this winter, Duquette believes his team has improved itself, though he did vaguely mention a few deals that didn't happen.  "We looked around the industry for that middle-of-the-order bat," Duquette said. "There was one free agent that was a significant player. There have been some other players available in a trade that I'm not sure they were better than what we had, and the cost of the acquisition has been a little pricey for us."

AL East Notes: Johnson, Pettitte, Blue Jays

The big news out of the AL East today is that longtime Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek will announce his retirement later this week. The 15-year veteran will retire with two World Series rings, three All-Star Game selections and 193 home runs. Here are some notes on his former division rivals…

  • Nick Johnson told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that the success of his 2012 season will come down to health. The Orioles signed Johnson to a minor league contract, but the first baseman didn't draw much interest this offseason. "There weren't a lot of teams giving me an opportunity," he said. 
  • Andy Pettitte visited Yankees camp and told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, that he doesn't plan on making a comeback. Pettitte said he's "loving life" away from the ballpark and enjoying time with his family.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports asked Joey Votto about his interest in playing for the Blue Jays and didn't sense much enthusiasm from the Etobicoke, Ontario native (Twitter link). Votto, who is under contract with the Reds through 2013, recently said he prefers to keep contract talks private.


Orioles To Sign Nick Johnson

The Orioles have agreed to sign Nick Johnson to a minor league deal, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Turner Gary Sports represents the first baseman/DH.

Johnson last played in the Major Leagues with the 2010 Yankees, and though he has had trouble staying on the field, he owns a .401 career on-base percentage. A wrist injury limited Johnson to 24 MLB games in 2010 and he spent the 2011 season in the Indians' minor league system. Johnson posted a .201/.326/.328 line in 225 plate appearances in the upper minors last year.


Orioles Notes: Johnson, Kim, Ramirez

Here are some news items on the Orioles, on the day the team and Brad Bergesen argued their cases in front of a panel of arbitrators… 

  • The Orioles are working toward a minor league deal with first baseman/DH Nick Johnson, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Johnson last played in the Major Leagues with the 2010 Yankees, and though he has had trouble staying on the field, he owns a .401 career on-base percentage.
  • The Korean Baseball Organization suspended Kim Seong-min, the 17-year-old pitcher who signed with the Orioles earlier this offseason, for signing with Baltimore before graduating from high school, Yonhap News reports. Kim is no longer eligible to play or coach in South Korea. 
  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun isn't convinced that having Manny Ramirez around in the second half of the season would make the Orioles much better. However, it seems that executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette would like to see the slugger get another chance, according to Connolly.
  • The Orioles also agreed to sign catcher Dane Sardinha to a minor league deal.

Quick Hits: Johnson, Tigers, Kouzmanoff

With the first round of the 2011 draft in the rear view mirror, let's take a look at a few links..

  • Slugger Nick Johnson was in the Indians' clubhouse before tonight's game against the Twins, but skipper Manny Acta says that it doesn't mean that we'll see the veteran promoted to the majors, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.  Instead, the first baseman will be promoted from Double-A Akron to Triple-A Columbus.
  • Because of their signing of Victor Martinez, the Tigers were without a first round pick tonight.  Six months later, Tigers VP David Chadd has no regrets, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck.  The club wound up surrendering the No. 19 overall pick to the Red Sox, who used the pick to take UConn pitcher Matt Barnes.
  • Athletics third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was shocked to learn of his demotion to Triple-A tonight, writes Jane Lee of MLB.com.  

Ohio Notes: Mesoraco, Johnson, Davis

Some notes from the Buckeye State's two teams…

  • Catching prospect Devin Mesoraco, the Reds' first-round pick in the 2007 draft, is impressing the club during Spring Training with both his bat and his defense, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
  • The Reds didn't make major offseason acquisitions and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that it was the right way for GM Walt Jocketty to approach the offseason.
  • Here are a few details on Nick Johnson's minor league contract from MLB.com's Jordan Bastian and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  According to Hoynes, Johnson can opt out of his contract and become a free agent if he's not on the Indians' Major League roster by July 1.  Cleveland's $2.75MM team option on Johnson for 2012 will cease to be if Johnson isn't called up to the majors some point this season, tweets Bastian.  Of course, if Johnson isn't playing well enough to even earn a call-up, Cleveland wouldn't have been likely to pick up that option for next year anyway.
  • Right-hander Jason Davis, who pitched for the Indians from 2002-07, is on a tryout with the Tribe's minor league camp, reports Paul Hoynes (Twitter link).  Davis, who last pitched in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2008, has a 4.82 ERA in 144 Major League games, 56 of them starts.

MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post


Indians Sign Nick Johnson

The Indians, perhaps seeking a midseason OBP boost, officially signed first baseman/DH Nick Johnson to a minor league deal today.  Johnson will earn $750K if he makes the team, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.  The Indians have a $2.75MM option for 2012, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (on Twitter).

Rex Gary, Johnson's agent, recently explained to MLBTR that his client is "heading in the right direction" after being limited to 24 games last year due to a wrist injury. Though Johnson probably won't be ready for the beginning of the season and can't swing a bat all-out at this point, he should be ready soon after the season starts.

Johnson, 32, has a .401 on-base percentage over the course of a nine-year career that's seen him hit the disabled list nine times. If Johnson can recover from the wrist operation that sidelined him for most of the 2010 campaign, the Indians will have added a cheap on-base specialist to contribute at first base and DH when Matt LaPorta and Travis Hafner are rested.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement on Twitter.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.


Teams Monitoring Nick Johnson

Teams seeking a midseason on-base percentage boost would be wise to keep an eye on free agent Nick Johnson.  After signing a one-year deal with the Yankees in December of 2009, Johnson appeared in only 24 games before a wrist injury ended his season.  Two surgeries later, Johnson is "heading in the right direction" according to his agent Rex Gary.

Gary told MLBTR Johnson has been working out at Athletes' Performance Institute since October and clubs are monitoring his progress closely.  The first baseman/DH is not expected to be ready for the start of the season and is not able to swing a bat at full bore currently.  Still, Gary expects Johnson to be ready "early in the season."  The agent added that Johnson will need some time in the minors, as he hasn't played in a game since May 7th of last year.

Johnson, 32, has a .401 career on-base percentage in nine seasons for the Yankees, Expos, Nationals, and Marlins.  He's battled injuries throughout his career, but should still be an asset when he's able to play.


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Heyman On Fielder, Papelbon, Rays, Giants

Prince Fielder is looking to join the $200MM club and the Red Sox considered trading Jonathan Papelbon to the A's or White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here are the details and the rest of Heyman's rumors:

  • Fielder is looking for at least eight years and $200MM or so when he hits free agency after the season, according to Heyman. Not surprisingly, the Brewers don't like the idea of committing that much to their first baseman.
  • The Red Sox talked to the A's and White Sox about Jonathan Papelbon. Boston appeared willing to offer Rafael Soriano a one-year deal and make him their closer. If the sides had agreed to a deal, the Red Sox would have sent Papelbon elsewhere, likely to Oakland or Chicago
  • The Rays, who are moving toward a deal with Johnny Damon, have also considered Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Russell Branyan and Nick Johnson.
  • The Yankees hope to hear from Andy Pettitte soon, but the lefty is still mulling retirement.
  • The Giants appear to be nearing a one-year deal with Andres Torres. As our Arb Tracker shows, Torres filed at $2.6MM and the Giants countered with $1.8MM.
  • Heyman says there's "scuttlebutt" that the Rangers could look to lock Josh Hamilton up on a multiyear deal. 
  • Heyman talked to executives about Joey Votto's new deal and arrived at the conclusion I reached after talking to insiders earlier in the week: the Reds didn't appear to gain much from their deal with the reigning NL MVP.
  • Heyman points out that Jose Bautista's representatives will have to convince arbitrators to overlook the string of pedestrian seasons that led up to Bautista's mammoth 2010 campaign. For more on Bautista's case, click here.