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.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles hasn’t exactly turned things around since joining the Blue Jays on July 31, when the club sent embattled closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Giles posted a 4.99 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Astros, then put up a slightly less miserable 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Jays. Still, he’s much happier with the Jays than he was with the Astros, even after winning the World Series with them last year. He said to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston. It’s kind of weird to say that because I won a World Series with that team. But it’s like, I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place.”
Giles also said “the communication was lost” with the Astros and it was something that came easy with the Jays. He said, “When I came here, they stayed patient with me. I said hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable. All right. OK, I’m comfortable, let’s move on to this next thing. Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that. Yeah, the team was out of contention, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my career. I still have to prove myself. Them being so patient with me, understanding what I want to do, was very, very big.”
Giles, 28, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has shown promise despite his overall mediocre numbers. In non-save situations this season (with both the Astros and Jays), he has a 9.12 ERA. But in save situations, his ERA is a pristine 0.38. Giles could be a closer the Jays find themselves leaning on as they attempt to get back into competitive shape. Since it sounds like Giles is quite enamored with Toronto and with the Blue Jays, a discussion about a contract extension certainly could be had.