Ernie Johnson Sr., a former major league pitcher better known for his long tenure in the broadcast booth with the Braves, passed away Friday night at age 87.
Johnson went 40-23 in a nine-year major league career spent mostly with the Boston and Milwaukee Braves. Primarily a middle reliever before such a role got much attention, he finished his career with 19 saves and a 3.77 ERA. He had his best year in 1953, the Braves’ first in Milwaukee, went he amassed a 2.67 ERA in 81 innings. He followed that up with a 2.81 ERA in 99 1/3 innings in 1954. Also, he allowed one run over seven innings in the Braves’ 1957 World Series victory over the Yankees.
But it was his second career for which he’ll long be remembered. Johnson worked with the Braves from 1962-99, doing both play-by-play and color. Even after his retirement, he spent at least one series in the Atlanta booth in each of the next several seasons. He worked with his son, Ernie Johnson Jr., in the SportSouth booth from 1993-96, and the Braves inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2001.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.