Pierce Johnson
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Pierce Johnson to pitch for Hanshin Tigers

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Right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson has signed a contract with the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball, the pitcher announced Saturday. Johnson cleared waivers in November and elected free agency after completing a one-year run in San Francisco.

The 27-year-old righty was initially selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2012 draft and worked his way up to the majors before getting claimed off of waivers by the Giants in 2017. He made his sophomore debut at the start of the 2018 season and acquired an ungainly 5.56 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, and 7.4 SO/9 through 43 2/3 innings with the club. Altogether, he’s compiled just 44 2/3 major-league innings across two seasons in Chicago and San Francisco, and will seek to improve on disappointing totals when he switches over to Japan’s premier baseball league in 2019.

The details of Johnson’s contract with the Tigers has yet to be announced, nor is it clear whether or not he plans to make an eventual return to MLB. Former major leaguers to make recent appearances for the Tigers include right-handers Diego Moreno and Rafael Dolis and first baseman Efren Navarro.

Padres sign Aaron Loup to a one-year deal

Aaron Loup
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Free agent lefty reliever Aaron Loup has been given a locker in the Padres’ clubhouse, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reported Sunday. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Loup received a one-year MLB deal with a club option for 2020. The Padres will shift right-hander Garrett Richards to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.

Loup, 31, began the 2018 season with the Blue Jays and was traded to the Phillies for minor league right-hander Jacob Waguespack at the midseason deadline. The veteran left-hander pitched just two innings in Philadelphia before hitting the injured list with a forearm strain and returned for a handful of appearances at the end of the year, bringing him up to a 4.54 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 10.0 SO/9, and 0.3 fWAR across 39 2/3 combined innings.

Assuming health issues don’t complicate his next campaign in San Diego, Loup will be added to the bullpen alongside fellow left-handers Matt Strahm and José Castillo (with the possible late addition of southpaw reliever Brad Wieck, who underwent surgery for testicular cancer earlier this year). There are worse places to be — according to FanGraphs, the Padres’ ‘pen jumped from second-worst in 2017 to second-best in the league with a cumulative 3.53 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 8.7 fWAR in 2018.