Non-tender tango: Kelly Johnson

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Kelly Johnson.jpgDecember 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to tender
contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. With that in
mind, here’s the third in a series (read
part one and part two) regarding some of the most likely
non-tender candidates and where they may find new homes. Though this is
based on some logic, it’s mostly intended to be a fun exercise.




Kelly Johnson – .224/.303/.389 with eight home runs and 29 RBI in 303 at-bats (106 games) in 2009.



Why
he’s a goner:
Johnson, who turns 28 in February, made $2.825 million in
’09 and figures to make over $2-3 million again in arbitration this
winter. He lost the starting second base job to Martin Prado upon
hitting the disabled list with a right wrist injury in July. Prado’s
.307/.358/.464 slashline to go along with 11 homers and 49 RBI in 2009
have made Johnson expendable.




Johnson thrived with the transition from left field to second base
after Tommy John surgery in 2006, batting .276/.375/.457 with 16 home
runs and 68 RBI in 2007. However, he has fallen into some bad habits at the
plate over the past two seasons, eroding his once-promising plate
discipline.




2007: 13.2% walk rate, 39.3% swing rate, 18.4% swing on pitches outside the zone

2008: 8.7% walk rate, 46.9% swing rate, 25.6% swing on pitches outside the zone

2009: 9.6% walk rate, 44.4% swing rate, 23.8% swing on pitches outside the zone



He’s seen his OPS dip against right-handed pitching, too:



2007: .858

2008: .793

2009: .595



Johnson
is known as a notoriously streaky hitter — he needed a .398/.429/.463
flourish in September of 2008 just to finish the season at .287/.349/.446.
In 361 career games at second base, he hasn’t been a standout with the glove (-17.7
UZR). Still, Bill James projects a .274/.354/.445 line for him in 2010, rendering him a fine bounce back candidate offensively.




Possible fits:



Cubs:
Though he is a supreme defender, Mike Fontenot’s .236/.301/.377
slashline in 2009 has him under consideration for being non-tendered in
December, as well. The Cubs have been linked to Luis Castillo of the
Mets as they attempt to find a third team to take Milton Bradley off
their hands.




Dodgers: Orlando Hudson and Ronnie Belliard are free agents,
leaving general manager Ned Colletti to consider alternatives. They
declined to offer Hudson arbitration this week, a possible indication
that the suddenly cost-conscious Dodgers didn’t even want to risk the
chance that he’d accept. 24-year-old Blake DeWitt (.257/.333/.384 in
417 major league at-bats) is a potential fallback.




Twins: Minnesota’s second base options combined to hit a pathetic
.208/.299/.266 with just two home runs and 45 RBI in 2009. The Twins
aren’t likely to pursue top-tier options like Orlando Hudson, Mark
DeRosa or Felipe Lopez this winter.




Cardinals: Johnson has been linked in rumors to the Cardinals
before
, so it’s possible they could show some interest if he’s cut loose
in December. The incumbent Skip Schumaker batted .303/.364/.393 in
2009, but the converted-outfielder ranked as one of the weakest
fielding second baseman in the National League, according to UZR
(Ultimate Zone Rating). The Cards could bank on a rebound from Johnson,
even as a bench player.




Where he should end up:




This seems like the sort of bargain-basement signing that would appeal
to Minnesota general manager Bill Smith. Should Johnson and new
shortstop J.J. Hardy rebound, the Twins would have a pretty potent
lineup for their first season at Target Field.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.