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.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.
Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.
The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.