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Tag:Kelly Johnson
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Spring primer: Toronto Blue Jays



By Matt Snyder

The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.

Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch

Probable lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

Probable rotation
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan

Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen

Important bench players

OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel

Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.

Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.

Pessimistic outlook
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:10 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Atlanta Braves

Elvis Andrus

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Braves have seemingly always believed in developing talent from within and occasionally supplementing from the outside. It's a formula that's worked for many years and has become a blueprint for most of baseball. However, that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes from time to time, and if you're a Braves fan, you probably already rue the date July 31, 2007, already. On that day, the Braves sent Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay. The Rangers have been to two World Series since the trade and the Braves none.  

Lineup

1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Brian McCann, C
4. Chipper Jones, 3B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Freddie Freeman, 1B
7. Jason Heyward, CF
8. Kelly Johnson, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Tommy Hanson
3. Brandon Beachy
4. Matt Harrison
5. Mike Minor

Bullpen

Closer - Craig Kimbrel
Set up - Neftali Feliz, Jonny Venters, Matt Belisle, Julio Teheran, Charlie Morton
Long - Bruce Chen

Notable Bench Players

Adam LaRoche, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Furcal, Yunel Escobar, Wilson Betemit, Andruw Jones, Jordan Schafer, Tyler Flowers, Brayan Pena and Garrett Jones give this team an acceptable backup at every spot on the diamond and more. 

What's Good?

The depth is incredible -- in the pitching staff and the position players. Even if Wainwright weren't available because of his injury, the team has Chen, Morton or the rookie Teheran to step in, or they could move Feliz to the rotation without even having to look anywhere else for its closer.

What's Not?

Heyward is playing out of position in center -- it was between him and Francoeur, so I went with Heyward. Other than that? Well, Wainwright might still have been injured and the rotation is young, but talented.

Comparison to real 2011

There's no chance this team would have missed the playoffs, like their real-life counterparts did. The rotation is solid (even without Wainwright) and would have given first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez more innings, meaning he may not have run Kimbrel and Venters into the ground. The lineup has enough punch to aid that goal. Does this team win the World Series? Maybe. The rotation isn't a postseason killer -- yet, but there's certainly potential.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Blue Jays acquire Luis Valbuena from Indians

Luis ValbuenaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a slow time in the hot stove action, and this year is no different, but Saturday did see one minor (and I do mean minor) deal, as the Blue Jays acquired infielder Luis Valbuena from the Indians in return for cash considerations, according to one of Cleveland's official Twitter accounts.

The Indians had designated Valbuena for assignment on Nov. 18. The 25-year-old infielder hit .209/.227/.279 in just 17 games for the Indians in 2011. He played in 194 games in 2009 and 2010 combined, but hit just .226/.287/.348 in those two seasons combined. He did hit 10 homers in 2009.

This is hardly the Blue Jays' answer at second base where the team lost Kelly Johnson, but he is at least a backup plan in case the team can't find anyone better or just need some depth at Triple-A.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Team-by-team NL free agency outlooks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With open free agency set to hit us at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, it's worth taking a quick look at what every single team is going to be looking for. We've already done detailed breakdowns in the R.I.P. series, so here are some quick hitters for the National League:

East
Atlanta Braves | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder, relief pitching
Money to spend?: Not much. The Braves' biggest need was getting rid of Derrek Lowe, and they did that and have saved $5 million to boot. The team has good, young starters, but put too many innings on their bullpen. They'll need more bullpen arms and also a bat in left field and a shortstop. With Tyler Pastronicky just about ready, the team could use a veteran backup just in case he doesn't work out.

Miami Marlins | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, center field
Money to spend? Oh yeah… with the team preparing to move into a new stadium, owner Jeffrey Loria is expected to make a splash in free agency and could raise payroll to the $100 million range. South Florida will be a favorite of baseball agents in the offseason who will use the Marlins as leverage -- they may even be more popular than the "mystery team" of the past off seasons. The Marlins will be rumored as a possible landing point for nearly every big free agent. The question is, which ones -- if any -- will actually take their talents to South Beach.

New York Mets | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, closer, relief pitching, middle infield
Money to spend? There are plenty of questions about the Mets ownership group, so nobody outside GM Sandy Alderson really knows what's going on and how much money he has to play with. It doesn't look like the team will go crazy in trying to re-sign Jose Reyes. The team will instead hope to improve its bullpen and rotation.

More Free Agency
Position rankings

Philadelphia Phillies | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder, closer, relief pitching, first base
Money to spend? It seems like they always find it when they need it, so there's no real concern about the budget. Even with Roy Oswalt likely to leave Philadelphia, there are few worries about the team's rotation. The bullpen, however, will need to be addressed. Ryan Madson may be re-signed and used as the closer, but the Phillies need middle-innings guys, as well. Left field is still an issue and the team could look to upgrade there, but will also need to address first base while Ryan Howard recovers from his Achilles injury. John Mayberry Jr. can play first, but moving him there creates a spot in the outfield.

Washington Nationals | R.I.P.
Needs: center field, starting pitching, relief pitching
Money to spend? Oh yeah. Like the Marlins, the Nationals have money to spend and unlike the Marlins, they have shown a willingness to actually use it. Last year the team overspent on Jayson Werth, something that certainly caught the eyes of free-agents-to-be. Several top names will certainly be courted by the Nationals, including Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. The Nationals really can't be counted out on anyone.

Central
Chicago Cubs | R.I.P.
Needs: first base, third base, closer, relief pitching, right field
Money to spend? The Ricketts opened the pocketbooks for their general manager, so it's unlikely they'll close 'em for players. Epstein says he wants to build a team from the bottom up, but that takes time and there will be pressure to win right away, and free agency will be part of that. Expect the Cubs to at least talk to the likes of Pujols and Fielder, even if they don't sign them. With Epstein in the fold, it'll certainly be interesting to see what route the Cubs take.

Cincinnati Reds | R.I.P.
Needs: closer, relief pitcher, corner outfielder, shortstop
Money to spend? Not much. It looks like the team will stand pat in the rotation, but after not picking up the option on Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati will need someone to finish out games. Last year Walt Jocketty stayed quiet during the offseason, but this winter that may not happen. However, the team is more likely to use the trade market than spend big in free agency.

Houston Astros | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, relief pitching
Money to spend? The Astros are in full-on rebuilding mode, as evidenced by their July fire sale. There's also the holdup of the sale of the team and the possible switch to the American League. If Jim Crane is approved by MLB, he may want to find his own general manager. The Astros won't be much of a player in the free agent market, looking for low-priced.

Milwaukee Brewers | R.I.P.
Needs: first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, relief pitching
Money to spend? Some -- for the right people. The team will try to make a pitch to retain Fielder and possibly Jerry Hairston Jr., but are likely celebrating to be free of Yuniesky Betancourt. The team probably won't be in the race for Reyes or even Jimmy Rollins, but could be in the market for a second-tier shortstop like Clint Barmes. They'll also need to add some arms in the bullpen, but could try to re-sign the likes of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins.

Pittsburgh Pirates | R.I.P.
Needs: catcher, first base, shortstop, corner outfielder, starting pitching
Money to spend? Yes, as much as $25 million or even a little more, but they also have plenty of holes. The Pirates took some steps forward in 2011, but will need to fill out their roster and will likely be going for the second-tier players to fill out a lineup around Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and James McDonald.

St. Louis Cardinals | R.I.P.
Needs: First base, shortstop, relief pitching
Money to spend? Some for the right player. The Cardinals have nearly $60 million tied up for 2012 in six players -- Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook. There's also the little matter of Pujols -- who will listen to offers from the Cardinals, but is unlikely to give much (or any) of a hometown discount. The team also needs a shortstop and could use another left-handed reliever.

West
Arizona Diamondbacks | R.I.P.
Needs: second base, middle infield, relief pitching
Money to spend? There's not much tinkering expected of a team that surprised everyone by winning the NL West in 2011 -- the rotation is looking good and most of the positions are already manned. The team declined its option on second baseman Aaron Hill, but could also look at former Diamondback second baseman Kelly Johnson. The bullpen was radically rebuilt last season, but could use some tweaking.

Colorado Rockies | R.I.P.
Needs: starting pitching, second base, third base
Money to spend? The team needs a starter and also two infield spots -- all without spending much money. They could be looking to trade to find their infielders and a lefty reliever. But they also need a pitcher that can throw 200 innings in a season, but those don't come cheap on the open market. They'd also like a right-handed bat.

Los Angeles Dodgers | R.I.P.
Needs:catcher, second base, third base, starting pitching, relief pitching
Money to spend? Who knows? With the Frank McCourt mess, nobody knows what the future holds for the Dodgers. If they are sold, the timing may still be off for any big additions to the budget. In a perfect world, the Dodgers are looking at the big names like Fielder, Reyes and Wilson, but it doesn't seem like that will happen.

San Diego Padres | R.I.P.
Needs: closer, relief pitching, corner outfield, middle infield
Money to spend? The Padres have money to spend and spots to fill -- but don't expect them to be wooing the big names. Big money in San Diego is still small money to the likes of the Phillies and Cubs. The highest-priced free agent likely to sign with San Diego is closer Heath Bell.

San Francisco Giants | R.I.P.
Needs: shortstop, corner outfielder
Money to spend? The Giants will spend for the right player, and Reyes may just be that player. Or Rollins. The team may also try to retain Carlos Beltran, but at his age and injury history, the Giants are unlikely to gamble with a multiyear contract.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Free-agent postion rankings: Thin crop at 2B

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans


For all free agency moves, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

Second base is hardly a marquee position -- there are some good players at the position, but at its core, it's a position of deficiencies. Second basemen generally aren't good enough defensively to play shortstop, or hit well enough to be a third baseman or outfielder. That's not to say there aren't some great players who play the position like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, but it's not a marquee position, and it's even less so in this free agent market.

Brandon Phillips1. Brandon Phillips: If the Reds were to decide against exercising Phillips' $12 million option, he'd certainly be in demand. But that's not happening. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has said he's planning on picking up Phillips' option, while Phillips prefers an extension. Phillips has said the Reds simply picking up the option on his contract would be a slap in the face -- but maybe one day I can be slapped in the face for $12 million. Phillips said the Reds won't get the "homeboy hookup" (otherwise known as the "hometown discount") in any extension talk. So while Phillips will be in a Reds uniform on opening day, the end of the season and beyond, that may be a question.
Possible teams: Reds

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll: Yep, Jamey Carroll is number two on this list -- which should tell you as much as you need to know about the remaining 11 names on this list. Carroll is a fine player, but nothing more than that. He hit .290/.359/.347 for the Dodgers this season and hasn't hit a home run since 2009. He did put up a .383 on-base percentage as a leadoff man, something that could make him much more attractive to potential suitors. Carroll could be a good second baseman (or shortstop) for somebody, but he's not exactly the type of player that's going to turn around the team or get a fanbase fired up.
Possible teams: Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies

Jerry Hairston Jr.3. Jerry Hairston Jr.: Hairston is one of the more versatile players in the game and also had a very good postseason, so good that someone may consider him an everyday player. Hairston played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field last season, but started each of the NLCS games at third base. He played 45 games for the Brewers and 75 for the Nationals in 2011, hitting .270/.344/.383 with five home runs overall.
Possible teams: Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets, Royals

Ramon Santiago4. Ramon Santiago: Santiago could play shortstop as well, increasing his value. This year was the first year he played mostly second base, starting 40 games at second and 22 at shortstop for the Tigers. Still, he doesn't exactly project as a first-division starter at either spot. He hit .260/.311/.384, not too far off his average in his 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Tigers and Mariners. He's most likely a utility infielder at this point in his career.
Possible teams: Twins, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers

Mark Ellis5. Mark Ellis: Ellis certainly earned brownie points for teams watching from afar when he gracefully stepped aside for the arrival of second baseman Jemile Weeks in Oakland and was then traded to Colorado. Ellis, a good defensive second baseman, struggled offensively in Oakland before the trade but hit quite a bit better in Colorado (imagine that). Ellis is likely to return to Colorado.
Possibile teams: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Aaron Hill6. Aaron Hill: The Diamondbacks have options for the next two seasons on Hill, but there's close to zero chance the team will pay him $8 million for next season. Still, Arizona has expressed interest in bringing back Hill, whom the Diamondbacks got in a change of scenery trade with the Blue Jays. Hill hit .315/.386/.492 with two homers in 33 games for the Diamondbacks after hitting just .225/.270/.313 for the Blue Jays.
Possible teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals

Aaron Miles7. Aaron Miles: After his disastrous turn in Chicago, Miles has rebounded pretty well the last two seasons. For the Dodgers in 2011, Miles hit .275/.314/.346 in 136 games. Miles will be 35 next season. The Dodgers have expressed some interest in bringing him back. Miles made $500,000 last season and should get a little bump, but don't look for anyone giving him a long-term deal.
Possible teams: 
Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals

Jack Wilson8. Jack Wilson: Wilson finished last season with the Braves, playing shortstop and third base. he played mostly second base for the Mariners to start the season, but that was because the team had Brendan Ryan at short. Wilson, who has never had much of a bat, may be entering the stage of his career where he can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at any of the infield positions.
Possible teams: White Sox, Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Cardinals

Carlos Guillen9. Carlos Guillen: Let's just say Guillen will take a pay cut in 2012 after his four-year, $48 million contract with the Tigers has run out. In those four seasons, the Tigers got a .266/.345/421 hitter with 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases. At 35 in 2011, Guillen hit .232/.265/.368, playing second base and first base in just 28 games.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, retirement

Kelly Johnson10. Kelly Johnson: Johnson was the other half of the Blue Jays-Diamondbacks underachiever swap. And like Hill, he responded well in his new home, hitting .270/.364/.417 in 33 games in Toronto, while hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 homers in 114 games with Arizona. The Blue Jays are likely to offer Johnson arbitration, so he can take it or hit the free agent market. He's likely on the borderline between Type A and Type B, if a Type A, he'd almost be forced to take arbitration because his value on the free agent market would take a huge hit if a team had to give up a draft pick. But the class of second basemen is so weak, he may be able to go anyway. It's an interesting situation.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers

Nick Punto11. Nick Punto: Punto hit .27 8/.388/.421 in a bounce-back year for the Cardinals, but was limited to just 166 plate appearances, so take that with a grain of salt. Punto's no longer an everyday player (if he ever really was), but is instead a utility player and there's always a place for that. He does add defensive value at most spots he plays, so there will be some demand.
Possible teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Padres

Craig Counsell12. Craig Counsell: After the NLCS loss to the Cardinals, the Brewers utility man said he wasn't whether he'd return for a 17th season, but he'd certainly listen to offers. "When you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt," Counsell told me after the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals. It's a good question. He's had a very good career, but he did hit just .178/.280/.223 and tied a big league record with a 45 at-bat hitless streak.
Possible teams: Brewers, Diamondbacks, retirement

Jose Lopez13. Jose Lopez: The Marlins out righted Lopez to the minors in July, before calling him back up in August. With the Rockies and Marlins in 2011, he hit a combined .216/.245/.373.He did hit .273/.296/.597 with six home runs in 32 games (16 starts) after being called back up. He played third, second and first base. An All-Star in 2006 with the Mariners, Lopez will likely sign a minor-league contract to get into camp with someone, but he's no team's idea of an answer to any question other than who is on the travel roster for a split squad game.
Possible teams:
Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Mets

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 5:22 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Arizona Diamondbacks
Record: 94-68, 1st place NL West. Lost to Brewers 3 games to 2 in NLDS
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Best hitter: Justin Upton -- ..289/.369/.529 with 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB
Best pitcher: Ian Kennedy -- 21-4, 222 IP, 33 GS, 2.88 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 198 SO, 55 BB

2011 SEASON RECAP

Nobody expected much from the Diamondbacks and even when they did surprise by leading the National League West, nobody thought they could hold off the Giants. Not only did they hold off the defending champs, they left them in the dust. The Diamondbacks were ruthless in making decisions early in the season, demoting or just flat-out getting rid of players that didn't produce, like Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, Wade Miley and Russell Branyan. The Diamondbacks won 16 of 18 in late August and early September, while Ian Kennedy became a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The team also discovered it has the makings of a stout rotation with Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter. They even survived the season-ending injury to Stephen Drew, winning despite his absence.

2012 AUDIT

The Diamondbacks are in a pretty good situation. So it seems they have some good, young talent that's not going to cost too much -- something that's very important to the Diamondbacks' front office. The team that they have should only get better and develop. There are small spots to fill, but nothing huge. And with Stephen Drew coming back, the team should be even better than they were in the playoffs.

FREE AGENTS

RHP Jason Marquis
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Aaron Hill ($8 team option)
LHP Zach Duke ($5.5 team option)
OF Xavier Nady
SS John McDonald
C Henry Blanco ($1.5 mutual option)UTIL Willie Boomquist ($1.1 mutual option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Remember last offseason when the Diamondbacks were listening to offers for Justin Upton? Don't do that.
  • Hill was acquired in a change-of-scenry trade with the Blue Jays in August and it seemed to work for both teams. Hill played well for the Diamondbacks -- but not $8 million well. The team should decline his option, but see if he'd entertain an offer for less. The other side of that trade, Kelly Johnson, talked about returning at a discounted price. If Hill's not interested in coming back on the cheap, Johnson may be.
  • The team could upgrade in left field, but that's not a pressing need. And even if it were, there's not a lot of money to spend on the likes of Josh Willingham. There should be enough on the non-tender scrap pile to bring in competition for the spring and push Gerardo Parra.
  • There's a lot of talk about the White Sox trying to trade Carlos Quentin -- at least listen and see how desperate they are to get rid of him. If they take the bulk of his contract, he wouldn't be a bad fit to put in left.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 8:08 pm
 

Strikeouts why Johnson was traded?

JohnsonBy Evan Brunell

Kelly Johnson went from a team he enjoyed playing on that was in first place all the way to a fourth-place team with Toronto when he was dealt Tuesday.

“I think my first reaction,” Johnson told the Arizona Republic, “was pretty much shock and then being disappointed.”

Johnson also addressed his strikeouts, as GM Kevin Towers mentioned after the trade that he was pushing to become a more contact-oriented team after Arizona whiffed a teamwide 1,529 times, highest in the majors by a wide margin. It was a similar message he parroted in the offseason after taking over.

""Personally, I like contact hitters. I like guys that have good pitch recognition. Strikeouts are part of the game, but if you have four or five or six guys in your lineup, it's hard to sustain any sort of rally," he told reporters (hat tip: SB Nation) when agreeing to join the Diamondbacks as GM.

True to his word, Towers traded Mark Reynolds and let Adam LaRoche walk as a free agent, two of the biggest culprits as far as strikeouts go. Johnson has, over the course of his career, increased his strikeout proclivity, punching out 132 times in 481 plate appearances this season.

I think 'KT' would rather throw up three times a day after eating than have his team strike out a lot,” Johnson said. “I know there (in Toronto), they’re little more free-spirited about the idea of getting up there and getting the first pitch they see. I know it’s a different philosophy. You never know what works. Obviously, it’s worked in Toronto for some guys. They’ve struck out a lot and had some pretty good offenses in the past.”

It's hard to argue against Towers' philosophy given the turnaround Arizona has engineered this season. After finishing 65-97 in 2010, the Diamondbacks now lead the NL West by two games. Of course, a lot of credit goes to 'Zona's remade bullpen and resurgences from certain players. Still, Towers seems to be working his magic once more.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 7:22 pm
 

Jays swap Hill to Diamondbacks for Johnson

Hill

By Evan Brunell

Aaron Hill has been traded to the Diamondbacks in a surprising move. Hill and infielder John McDonald were sent to Arizona in exchange for second baseman Kelly Johnson in what appears to be a change-of-scenery deal.

The trade is primarily constructed around one struggling second baseman being moved for another, with Hill once hitting 36 homers in 2009, his career season to date. The 29-year-old also had a strong year in 2007, but since then has fallen off a cliff. In 2011, Hill is hitting just .225/.270/.313 and is one of the worst offensive hitters in the game, as I outlined last Monday, saying "[Hill] still has a good chance to return to being a league-average player, but anything above and beyond that at this point is just wishful thinking."

To GM Kevin Towers of Arizona, though, Hill isn't wishful thinking. He's a risk, sure, but one that Towers would prefer to take over than continuing to play Kelly Johnson, who began the year as starting second baseman but has seen his playing team decrease; hitting just .181/.246/.324 since the All-Star break will do that. In reality, Johnson has only had two good months, that being May and July. These months are why Johnson is hitting .209/.287/.412 overall. Still, it's better than Hill, and Johnson has a better shot at recapturing past glory, as he has strong seasons in 2007, 2008 and 2010 in his resume.

"He's struggled to put together a year like he had last year," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson told the Associated Press. "It wasn't from a lack of work. To be honest with you, it was very tough to tell him he got traded today. He has high expectations of himself, he's very professional. He worked harder -- he probably worked too hard."

Johnson is an impending free agent, but currently qualifies as a Type-B free agent, which would net the Jays a compensatory pick. Anthopoulous greatly values acquiring picks and has made moves in the past to pick up players who can return draft-pick compensation. Of course, Johnson could always mess things up and accept arbitration, but his ensuing contract would be far from crippling. A hot streak to finish the season could also vault Johnson into Type-A territory, although it's difficult to imagine a team willingly giving up its first-round pick to sign Johnson to a deal in that case.

Hill is also slated to be a free agent assuming Arizona doesn't pick up $18 million in club options to pay Hill over the next two years, which it won't. That will allow Hill to walk, and he will likely qualify as a Type B free agent. The better chances of Johnson recapturing his value is where John McDonald comes in. McDonald is a backup infielder who can't hit, but does provide strong defense. That's in high demand for Arizona, who needs more bodies behind starting shortstop Willie Bloomquist with incumbent Stephen Drew out for the season with injury.

Given that both principal players in the deal will both be free agents and both likely to fetch similar compensation picks, this deal smacks of a change of scenery. Johnson wasn't working out anymore in Arizona, and with a division race to worry about, Towers grabbed a replacement second baseman with prior success that could break out in the desert, while adding a quality backup infielder. The Jays, meanwhile, get someone with a touch more upside and a better chance to stick long term, so one could argue that Toronto came out on top of the deal.

The Diamondbacks transferred starting pitcher Jason Marquis to the 60-day disabled list to clear out room for Hill and McDonald on the 40-man roster, while the Jays called up catcher Brian Jeroloman.

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