9:08pm: Johnson is entering tonight’s game in a save situation, so it certainly doesn’t appear that a deal is nearing finalization at this moment.
6:01pm: The Braves are nearing a deal involving veteran right-hander Jim Johnson, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). He adds that the Blue Jays and Mets are among the teams that have shown at least some interest in the reliever. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes on Twitter, Atlanta is carrying ten pen arms tonight, which could be due in part to the possibility of a swap going down.
Johnson, 33, could join infielder Kelly Johnson in signing with the Braves in consecutive years, only to be dealt each summer. Last season, he went to the Dodgers as part of the monster, three-team swap engineered at the deadline, only to re-sign with Atlanta on a one-year, $2.5MM pact.
For the season, Johnson carries a 4.21 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. Johnson’s average fastball velocity has dropped just below 93 mph for the first time in his career, but that hasn’t stopped the sinker-baller from checking in with a hefty groundball rate — it stands at 56.4% at present. He has been prone to the long ball when batters have put it in the air, with a 16.7% HR/FB rate, but he’s only allowing 0.74 dingers per nine.
Clearly, Johnson isn’t going to be valued like he was in his heyday as the Orioles closer. But teams looking to add depth to their pen will surely take a look, particularly if they are intrigued by the idea of adding an arm that’s capable of generating lots of grounders without adding significant payroll or coughing up much in terms of prospects.