Reports from Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith confirmed two more additions to Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic: Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin. Martin is pegged to start at shortstop during the competition, which is scheduled to kick off in March.
Freeman, 27, had a breakout season with the Braves in 2016, batting .302/.400/.569 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS in 693 PA. Martin’s season got off to a bit of a slower start, and he finished his second year in Toronto with a .231/.335/.398 batting line, 20 homers and a .733 OPS through 535 PA. The 33-year-old has not played shortstop at the major league level in any of his 11 seasons, though he did make an appearance at short during the World Baseball Classic in 2013, partly to avoid the stress of handling an unfamiliar pitching staff.
Freeman and Martin will join free agent first baseman Justin Morneau and right-handers Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster on Team Canada, per earlier reports from Davidi on Saturday. Gagne, 41, has been playing in the Canadian-American Association on and off since his departure from MLB in 2008, while Dempster has not played pro ball since his retirement in 2014.
As for those who are skipping the WBC this year, Davidi lists Mariners left-hander James Paxton and Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon as two who have declined to appear so far. Nicholson-Smith adds that while free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has expressed interest in signing on with Team Canada, he’ll wait until he picks up a contract for the 2017 season to make a final decision.
The Dodgers have traded infielder Micah Johnson to the Braves for a player to be named or cash considerations, the team announced this afternoon.
Johnson had two brief stints with the Dodgers in 2016, playing seven games, going 1-for-6 with a run scored. He hit .261/.321/.356 with 23 doubles in 120 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City, starting 78 games at second base, 20 games in left field, 14 games in center field, and made two starts at third base. He stole 26 bases in 37 attempts.
For a contender like the Dodgers, playing time would’ve been hard to find. For a rebuilding Braves team, however, his versatility should come in pretty darn handy. Even if he starts in Triple-A, he’ll likely have plenty of opportunities in Atlanta in 2017.
As mentioned in the story about the Braves-Mariners trade, it looked like Seattle was going to flip outfielder Mallex Smith, who they just acquired from Atlanta. And flipped him they have, along with two minor leaguers, to Tampa Bay for starter Drew Smyly.
Smyly, the 27-year-old lefty, posted a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts for the Rays last season. He struck out 167 batters while walking 49 in 175.1 innings. While it was his worst season as far as ERA+ goes, it was the most he has worked in any of his five years in the bigs. He’s a back-end starter and the M’s could use a back-end starter.
Going to Tampa Bay will be Smith, the speedy center fielder we talked about in the Braves-M’s trade post, and minor leaguers Carlos Vargas, a shortstop, and lefty Ryan Yarbrough. Vargas is only 17 and played in 62 games in the developmental Dominican Summer League. Yarbrough was a fourth rounder in 2014 but is 25 and hasn’t advanced past Double-A yet. He flashed gaudy strikeout rates early on, but that has flattened out.