Jim Johnson is having an incredible season, too

6 Comments

Baltimore’s surprising closer has been overshadowed by Tampa Bay’s surprising closer, but Jim Johnson notched his 51st save Tuesday in the 1-0 win over the Rays.

That moves Johnson into a tie for ninth place on the all-time single-season saves list with Dennis Eckersley (1992) and Rod Beck (1998). He’s the first closer to save 50 games since the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez broke the major league record with 62 in 2008.

Of course, Johnson does things a bit differently than most closers. He has just 41 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings this season. The 11 other pitchers with 50-save seasons had strikeout totals ranging from 66 (Mariano Rivera, 2004) to 137 (Eric Gagne, 2003).

With 51 saves and 41 strikeouts, Johnson will be the 13th pitcher ever to finish with 30 saves and at least as many saves as strikeouts. Todd Jones did it in back-to-back years in 2006-07 (and had 18 saves and 14 strikeouts in 2008). Danny Kolb is the only closer to have a more extreme split than Johnson here; he had 39 saves and 21 strikeouts for the Brewers in 2004.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
5 Comments

Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.