The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign right-handed relief pitcher Jim Johnson to a minor league deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday.
Johnson was recently released by the Oakland Athletics, following a tough stint that saw him go from closer to a pitcher that made only six appearances in the month of July. The A's had signed Johnson before the season to a one-year, $10 million deal for his third and final arbitration season. He had accumulated his first five seasons of service time with the Baltimore Orioles, who dealt Johnson to Oakland in December.
The Orioles were interested in re-signing Johnson following his release, according to various Baltimore Orioles, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, who did a particularly good job covering the Johnson story. It was Kubatko who reported yesterday that Johnson had signed, but to a team that was not the Baltimore Orioles.
For two straight seasons with Baltimore, Johnson was arguably the best closer in the American League. He recorded the AL lead in saves in both 2012 and 2013, saving 51 and 50 in those seasons, respectively. During that stretch, Johnson pitched in 145 games, totaling 139 innings pitched, as he posted a 2.72 ERA and a 3.35 FIP. His 97 to 33 strikeout-to-walk rate from 2012 to 2013 was really good.
It was as if Johnson was a completely different pitcher this year. In 40 1/3 innings pitched over a 38 game span, Johnson pitched to an ugly 7.14 ERA to go along with a 5.30 FIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was terrible; he recorded only 28 punch-outs to 23 base on balls. Johnson's 53 ERA+ is the worst mark of his career (min. 10 innings pitched). He recorded only two saves in three opportunities in Oakland.
The Tigers may have a spot for the right-hander, as they have been really weak out of the bullpen this season. Detroit's relief corps have posted the third-highest ERA in the majors to go along with the sixth-highest FIP. The team acquired Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers in July to help cater this need, but stocking up on relief pitching is never a bad idea. Taking a chance on Jim Johnson fits right in that category. It would not surprise me if Johnson does come and pitch with Detroit this season.