Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that the Marlins “are expected to sign” third baseman/first baseman Chris Johnson, who was released by the Indians two weeks ago despite being owed $17.5 million on his contract.
Johnson was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland as part of a swap of bad contracts that saw Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher go back to the Braves, so the Indians never really intended for him to be part of their long-term plans.
Johnson has been productive at times thanks to a sky-high batting average on balls in play, but once that luck wore off his horrible plate discipline and mediocre power left him as a .261 hitter with a .644 OPS in 2014/2015. He’ll compete for a bench spot in Miami and because Cleveland is on the hook for his previous contract Johnson will make the MLB minimum.
Alex Anthopoulos, who was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News on the same day he stepped down as Blue Jays general manager, has joined the Dodgers front office as vice president of baseball operations.
Anthopoulos spent six seasons as the GM in Toronto and the Blue Jays made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1993, but he resigned from the job in early November rather than work under new team president (and former Indians general manager) Mark Shapiro.
Now he’ll work under Dodgers president Andrew Friedman in a front office that also includes Farhan Zaidi as GM and Josh Byrnes as senior vice president of baseball operations. It’s hard to tell exactly what the new pecking order in Los Angeles will be, but Anthopoulos is seemingly no higher than third in command.
It’s likely just a short-term gig, however, as he figures to be a very popular GM candidate for any teams making changes at the top.
Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies have signed free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra to a three-year, $27.5 million contract, which seemingly signals that Colorado will be trading one or more of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson from its current group of outfielders.
Parra had a huge first half for the Brewers last season, but then came crashing back down to earth following a trade to the Orioles. Overall he hit .291 with 14 homers, 14 steals, and a .780 OPS in 155 games for the second-best numbers of his career.
Combined from 2012-2014 he hit just .267 with a .709 OPS and Parra is a 29-year-old with mediocre power, poor plate discipline, and a modest career OPS of .730, so while playing half his games in Coors Field will no doubt boost his raw totals he’s far from an impact bat.
Signing a good but not great 29-year-old outfielder to a three-year deal seems like an odd move for a rebuilding team coming off a 94-loss season, although it’s tough to fully judge the signing without first seeing the domino effect on the rest of the Rockies’ outfield.
Brandon Maurer thrived in San Diego’s bullpen last season after previously struggling as a starter in Seattle, but now the Padres are moving him back to the rotation.
General manager A.J. Preller told Corey Brock of MLB.com that Maurer prefers to start and “you put a lot of stock in that.” And if things go poorly again as a starter “we know that he can pitch coming out of the bullpen.”
For his three-season career Maurer has a 6.62 ERA in 21 starts and a 3.40 ERA in 92 relief appearances, but he’s also just 25 years old and as new Padres manager Andy Green pointed out to Brock: “You look at his minor league track record, his dominance in Jackson in Double-A, he was a tremendous starter there.”
San Diego has already traded closer Craig Kimbrel and his primary setup man Joaquin Benoit, so moving Maurer to the rotation would complete a total bullpen overhaul.
UPDATE: Buster Olney of ESPN.com says Chen has agreed to terms with the Marlins on a five-year deal, $80 million contract with a sixth-year option He joins a rotation headlined by Jose Fernandez and will try to be rare big-money free agent to actually remain in Miami for the entire contract.
Chen’s contract reportedly does not include a no-trade clause and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that he’ll have the ability to opt out of the deal after two seasons. In terms of guaranteed money Chen’s deal is right in line with what Mike Leake (five years, $80 million) and Jeff Samardzija (five years, $90 million) got, but the opt-opt gives him more flexibility and potentially more earning ability.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Marlins “remain in active negotiations” with free agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, which is a follow-up to his report from last week that they’d expressed interest in the former Orioles starter.
There hasn’t been a ton of buzz around Chen yet, although now that the bigger names are off the market he stands as the top available free agent starter following a season in which he logged 191 innings with a 3.34 ERA. Through age 29 he has a 3.72 ERA in 707 total innings as a big leaguer, all with Baltimore.
Chen turned down a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Orioles and would require forfeiting a draft pick to sign, but because of the Marlins’ poor record last season they’d be giving up a second-rounder rather than a first-rounder.
Based on what Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake signed for earlier this winter Chen would seemingly be in line for at least $75 million over five years and possibly as much as $100 million. And based on the Marlins’ track record with such signings they’d probably be looking to trade his contract in a year or two anyway.