Even though Reed Johnson struggled after coming over from the Cubs in the Paul Maholm-Arodys Vizcaino deal in July, the Braves saw something they liked. They re-signed the veteran outfielder to a one-year deal with a club option for 2014.
Johnson, who turns 36 later this week, hit .302/.355/.444 in 169 at-bats for the Cubs last season, but he came in at .270/.305/.320 with no homers and just three walks in 100 at-bats for the Braves.
Used to coming off the bench, Johnson has played in at least 100 games but received no more than 270 at-bats three years running now. He’s hit over .300 against lefties each of the last seven years.
The Braves will view Johnson as an upgrade from Matt Diaz as a right-handed-hitting reserve. They’re still on the lookout for a starting left fielder to play alongside B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.