Tampa Bay did some roster shuffling, designating first baseman Dan Johnson for assignment and optioning reliever Rob Delaney back to Triple-A while calling up outfielder Justin Ruggiano and activating reliever J.P. Howell from the disabled list.
Howell’s return is the most interesting development, as he had back-to-back impressive seasons as a reliever before blowing out his shoulder, posting a 2.48 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 156 innings between 2008 and 2009.
If healthy Howell could further boost a bullpen that ranks fourth among AL teams with a 3.20 ERA despite losing Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler to free agency.
Johnson showed good plate discipline and power for the Rays, but hit just .168 in 75 games dating back to last season and gave way to Casey Kotchman as the primary first baseman. Ruggiano returns to the majors for the first time since 2008 and at 29 years old is no longer a prospect, but he could be a solid contributor in a platoon role if spotted mostly versus left-handed pitching.
Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.
Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.
Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.
Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.
Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.
Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.
Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.
Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.