Still acting cheap, Marlins decline to offer Johnson four-year deal

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The wheels were set in motion for Josh Johnson to join a sterling class of free agent starters in two years when he and the Marlins reached an impasse in contract talks on Friday.
Agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com that he and Johnson were using the four-year, $38 million contract that Zack Greinke signed a year ago as a framework for a new deal with the Marlins. Florida, though, was only willing to guarantee Johnson three years.
If the Marlins could have signed Johnson to the Greinke deal, it would have been a bargain. With a career ERA of 3.40 in 481 1/3 innings, Johnson has a better track record than Greinke did entering 2009. He went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and a 191/68 K/BB ratio last season, and that was as a groundball pitcher working in front of a poor infield defense. He allowed just 14 homers. His 3.06 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) was the seventh-best mark in baseball.
Since they control him for two more years and they expect to contend next season, there’s little reason for the Marlins to trade Johnson this winter. Still, they could if bowled over with an offer. If Johnson were a free agent, there’s little doubt that he’d land a bigger contract than any available pitcher, John Lackey included.
Barring an extension, Johnson will be a part of 2011-12 free-agent class that could also include Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Wandy Rodriguez and Edwin Jackson.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.