We’ve been waiting to hear about a move like this for a while now. But now it has finally happened- the Rays have officially come to terms with Kyle Farnsworth and Kelly Johnson, with Farnsworth making $1.25MM in 2013 plus incentives worth another $1.25MM and Johnson making $2.45MM. In corresponding moves, the Rays have designated infielders Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac for assignment. As we talked about when the signings were first reported, the Farnsworth re-signing gives the Rays an experienced middle relief option at quite a bargain price, while the Johnson deal shores up the Rays’ starting lineup, with Johnson in line to see time primarily at second base and left field and provide the Rays lineup with solid power and speed. Johnson played exclusively second base the last six years in the major leagues, but even the Rays’ official Twitter feed described him as a “2B/OF.” We heard before how Johnson was going to move around the field with Ben Zobrist playing a lot of second base, and defense could be a big reason for that as Johnson has been regarded as about average at second base but could be stronger at left field, where he did make his MLB debut back in 2005, and combining that with Zobrist’s plus defense at second base could give the Rays their best all-around defense in a while. Johnson is looking forward to playing more positions after being entrenched at second base for so long.
The signings of Farnsworth and Johnson are exciting, but it’s a little bittersweet to see Elliot Johnson and Brignac to go. Elliot Johnson had his moments for the Rays in 2012, but he slumped badly in the second half and didn’t play up to par defensively, and even though Johnson that bad of a player, he didn’t do anything too special and the Rays had to use his roster spot on a more productive player. Brignac still may have some upside- he was one a top prospect made a moderate breakthrough at the plate at Triple-A in 2012- and he’s a really good defender at shortstop and around the field, but he hasn’t hit at all in the majors and the Rays couldn’t keep waiting for him. Both Johnson and Brignac became more expendable given the acquisitions of Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson, and also the fact that Zobrist’s versatility means that the Rays don’t need to waste a roster spot on someone simply because that player can play shortstop. Both Johnson and Brignac were nothing but complementary about the Rays after hearing that they had been designated for assignment and hope to make the major leagues with another organization next season. They could stay with the Rays organization should they pass through waivers, but they have enough talent to stick with another MLB team in at least a bench role and best of luck to them as they try to do just that. The Rays refused to expose Johnson to waivers last season and it’s save to assume that both Brignac and him will be claimed, although the Rays may be able to work out a trade with another team. Johnson can deny an outright assignment to Triple-A even if he passes through waivers, so it seems safe to assume that he won’t be back. The Rays still at least have one more move to make- we know that they also re-signed DH Luke Scott– and that move will be coupled with another player being designated for assignment, with players like C/OF Stephen Vogt and RHP Dane De La Rosa being the likely possibilities.