Athletics acquire closer Jim Johnson from Orioles

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UPDATE: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Athletics have acquired Johnson from the Orioles in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks. The Orioles are also expected to receive a player to be named later.

Weeks was once a top prospect with the A’s, but he has fallen out of favor over the past two seasons. He appeared in just eight games at the major league level this year and hit .271/.376/.369 with four home runs, 40 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 130 games in Triple-A. Still, he doesn’t turn 27 until January, so perhaps the change of scenery will do him some good. He should have a chance to compete for the starting second base job in the spring.

With Johnson’s expected raise in arbitration, the return wasn’t nearly as important as the salary flexibility. The Orioles can now address other areas of need. Tommy Hunter gives them an in-house option at closer, though they could look to the free agent and trade markets for a replacement.

10:22 p.m. ET: Well, here’s a surprise. While we learned earlier today that the Dodgers were “in the mix” to potentially acquire Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal now hears that the Athletics are now the “most involved” in trade discussions. Furthermore, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers no longer expect to acquire him.

Given that Johnson will see his salary rise to around $10 million in his final year of arbitration, he would appear to be an odd fit for the usually cost-conscious Athletics. However, they have a vacancy in the closer role with Grant Baflour on the free agent market. And they would only have to commit one year if they make the trade.

Johnson had his second-straight 50-save season this year, leading the American League once again, but he also led the majors with nine blown saves. The Orioles are essentially shopping him in order to shed salary, so the return could be minimal.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.