MLB free agency: Padres re-sign Josh Johnson, Pirates land Corey Hart
Elsewhere, the Cubs fortified their bullpen depth, and Heath Bell signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals.
The MLB hot stove has cooled off since the week of the Winter Meetings, but some teams were busy Monday making a few minor moves.
After missing out on all of the 2014 season, Josh Johnson will reportedly return to San Diego on an incentive-laden deal. The Pirates, meanwhile, signed veteran Corey Hart, who could earn some playing time in the Pittsburgh lineup next season. The Cubs were also active and added to their bullpen by inking Jason Motte to a contract as they load up for 2015. Heath Bell even found a home, signing a minor-league deal with the Nationals.
Johnson returning to San Diego
San Diego signed the right-hander to a one-year, $8 million deal last offseason, but Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery in April and missed the entire 2014 campaign. The 30-year-old’s performances are tied to the number of games he starts, per Passan, with Johnson able to earn up to $6.25 million if he makes 33 starts (something he hasn’t done since 2009.)
Back in 2013, Johnson made just 16 starts and finished with a 6.20 ERA for the Blue Jays, striking out 85 batters and walking 30. It’s doubtful Johnson will recapture his best days back when he pitched for the Marlins, but if he stays healthy, he could be well worth the price tag.
Hart headed to Pittsburgh
The Pirates signed Corey Hart to a one-year, $2.5 million deal on Monday, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Hart can earn up to $2.5 million more based on playing-time bonuses. The 32-year-old moves to Pittsburgh after a tough season with the Mariners in 2014. Hart batted just .203/.271/.319 for Seattle over 68 games, failing to rebuild his value after missing the entire 2013 campaign due to injury.
A two-time All-Star earlier in his career with the Brewers, Hart will likely serve as a bench option in Pittsburgh and could be used as a platoon partner with Pedro Alvarez at first base. He didn’t hit lefty pitching well last year but owns a career .290/.362/.504 mark against southpaws.
Cubs add to bullpen with Motte
The Cubs signed right-handed reliever Jason Motte to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, according to a report from Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com
Motte could prove a nice, bounce-back signing for Chicago after missing all of 2013 and much of the 2014 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Prior to his injury, Motte served as an effective closer for the Cardinals, saving 42 games and posting a 2.75 ERA with 86 strikeouts and 17 walks over 72 innings.
He wasn’t nearly as successful after returning from surgery last year, finishing with a 4.68 ERA in 29 appearances. Still, if Motte can regain his previous form, he could be a solid option for Joe Maddon and the Cubs to call upon in the late innings.
Bell lands in Washington
Heath Bell signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals, which includes an invitation to big league Spring Training, the reliever himself announced on The Players Tribune.
Bell has bounced around since his successful days with the Padres and made only 13 MLB appearances for Tampa Bay last season. Back in 2013, the 37-year-old pitched 65⅔ innings out of the Diamondbacks bullpen, compiling a 4.11 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 16 walks.