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.

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

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

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:

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
, 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.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.