Making official what was reported last night, the Braves and third baseman Chris Johnson have agreed to a three-year, $23.5 million contract extension that includes a $10 million team option for 2018.
Johnson is making $4.75 million this year and was already under team control for 2015 and 2016 via arbitration eligibility, so the extension pre-pays for those two seasons and buys out his first (and possibly second) season of free agency.
Johnson had a career-year last season, hitting .321 with 12 homers and an .816 OPS in 142 games for the Braves. However, he’s off to a slow start this season, hitting just .255 with a .641 OPS in 26 games, and Johnson is a lifetime .287 hitter with a modest .760 OPS through age 29.
He’s generally been a slightly above average hitter, but defensive metrics consistently peg Johnson as a very poor fielder at third base and because of that his overall value sabermetrically has been fairly underwhelming. The contract locks him up through age 32 and potentially age 33, and it’s the sixth extension the Braves have handed out since spring training for a total of more than $300 million in commitments.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.