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Seattle Signs Tyler Johnson, Five Lefties Remain

In what seems like a minor deal, the Mariners signed left-handed specialists Tyler Johnson today, convincing the former Cardinal to accept a minor league deal, according to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.

Johnson is the ultimate high-injury risk, high-reward guy in any bullpen. He missed all of 2008 with shoulder bursitis, a particularly significant injury since he'd undergone left shoulder surgery in May 2007. Thus, he's spent most of the past two seasons unable to pitch.

However, when he can pitch Johnson can be special. He led the Cardinals bullpen in strikeouts during the team's 2006 run, fanning 12 in only 7 1/3 innings of work, and lefties hit only .224 against him when he was healthy in 2007.

Evidently the Mariners saw enough evidence of Johnson's return to health to give him a deal. According to Baker, one of the team's special assistants, Duane Shaffer, spent the past couple weeks watching him throw, becoming convinced he's healthy enough to present a bullpen bargain.

With Johnson gone, there's now only six left-handed specialists left on the market, and most of them are a less dicey (and thus, probably more expensive) option than Johnson. Who are they? Let's take a look:

  • Joe Beimel - A Type B free agent from the Dodgers, Los Angeles didn't even offer him arbitration, so he comes free of draft-pick compensation. There are always plenty of questions about Beimel's control, a particularly poignant concern since he doesn't strike out many batters, either. Still, he's been doing something right; just check out his line against left-handed hitters last year: .278 average/.330 on base percentage/.311 slugging percentage.
  • Will Ohman - If Beimel's received more interest than any of the other guys on this list, Ohman is a very close second. The Cubs dealt him to the Braves in the 2007-08 offseason as part of the Omar Infante trade, and he's performed admirably in Georgia, to the tune of only .200 ba/.257 obp by lefthanded batters against him. Atlanta extended him a contract offer back at the start of free agency in November, but he hasn't taken them up on it. The was a lot of smoke coming from supposed interest in Philadelphia, too, but that seems to have cooled off as well.
  • Dennys Reyes - The most established of the group, Reyes is a Type B player who was actually was offered arbitration by the Twins, so he'll cost a draft pick. Still, whoever signs him will know what they're getting: lefties struggled to hit a meager .202 against him, with a .250 on base percentage.
  • Ron Villone - Was the Cardinals' best lefthanded option in 2008, holding lefty bats to a .176 average. He still has a tendency to issue some walks, but then again, so do most loogys.
  • Randy Flores - Of all the injury risks out there, Flores ranks pretty high among them. The Cardinals cut him loose this offseason after September surgery for labrum fraying and a cyst. If that wasn't enough reason to be uneasy about him, there's this: lefties hit a whopping .314 average and .422 on base percentage against him.

By Cameron Smith  |  February 5, 2009; 6:38 PM ET
Categories:  Mariners  
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Comments

I've been banging on the Reyes / Beimel drum for a while. Ohman or even Villone would be useful too for the Nats. These guys are not going to cost an arm and a leg and they will improve the back four of the bullpen. The Nats need bullpen depth if they expect to go with an experimental rotation full of high risk / upside veterans like Olsen and Cabrera, and a system product mix of kids. this looks like a cheap way to substantially improve the team's potential.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 5, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

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