In a pair of expected moves, the Twins have exercised their $5.25 million option on Jason Kubel and declined their $5 million option on Nick Punto.
Kubel had a disappointing season, but hitting .249/.323/.427 in 143 games for career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, but bringing back the 28-year-old career .271/.335/.463 hitter never seemed in doubt.
Kubel is essentially a league-average corner outfielder or designated hitter offensively and brings little to the table on defense, so $5.25 million may be a slight overpay, but the Twins will be happy with the investment if he can return to pre-2009 levels.
For most teams declining Punto’s option would have been a no-brainer, because $5 million for a 33-year-old career .247/.321/.322 hitter who can’t seem to stay healthy is crazy, but manager Ron Gardenhire absolutely adores Punto and the Twins paid him $4 million in each of the past two seasons. Utility infielders like Punto are typically available every offseason for $1 million or so, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Twins bring him back at a lesser salary.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.