Earl Williams, who won the NL Rookie of the Year for the Braves in 1971, died Monday at age 64. Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star Ledger writes that Williams was diagnosed with leukemia last July.
Williams was a catcher/first baseman who played eight seasons in the majors for the Braves, Orioles, A’s, and Expos from 1970-1977. In addition to his strong rookie year Williams was an above-average hitter in each of his first four full seasons, averaging 29 homers per 160 games, but hit just .235 with a .679 OPS after age 25 and was finished in the majors at age 28.
He was traded from the Braves to the Orioles in a deal that sent current Nationals manager Davey Johnson to Atlanta, and Castillo notes that he clashed with Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to the point that Williams was suspended for “a reluctance on Williams’ part to listen without interruption.”
The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.
Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.
Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.
Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.
Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.