As we say. Things have been light on the Jays front, but there is a little news to report.
The Jays reached a 1-year deal with Reed Johnson to avoid arbitration. Johnson will be paid $3.275 Million for his services, a very slight raise from his salary last season. Sparky is probably not as good as he was in 2006 nor as bad as he was last season, but he's a solid 4th outfielder who hits lefties well and plays good defense. It appears, though, that the Jays plan to use Sparky as the everyday leftfielder. With Eckstein apparently occupying the leadoff role, it looks like Reed will hit 2nd against lefties and down in the order against righties when Matt Stairs doesn't get the call.
I'm happy enough to see Reed back, but I think I'd rather see Adam Lind getting the lion's share of at-bats in leftfield this season. The Jays have no shortage of options for the 2-hole, with Overbay/Hill/Rios all capable. Lind would also inject some more lefthandedness into the Jays lineup, which would not be a bad thing, particularly if he's ready to contribute like Bill James predicts he will.
The Jays still have to come to terms with Rios, Marco Scutaro, Brian Tallet, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Gustavo Chacin if they are to continue their streak of avoiding arbitration hearings with all their players.
The Jays also signed Lance Carter, John Parrish, and Ryan Ketchner to minor league deals. With the Jays crowded bullpen situation, these three were likely brought in for depth purposes to replace the pitchers the Jays have lost this offseason to waivers, trades, and the Rule 5 draft: Lee Gronkiwiecz, Justin James, Jamie Vermilyea, and Ryan Houston, among others. Carter is a righty and Parrish and Ketchner are southpaws.
The 2008 schedule is out and features early series against the Yankees (Opening Day) and Red Sox (home opener). I'm a bit disappointed that the Jays aren't coming to D.C., but I always get plenty of chances to see them in Baltimore less than an hour away, not to mention trips to NY, so I can hardly complain. I hate interleague play anyway and don't really understand how the schedules work anyway.
Finally, Josh Towers has reached a deal with Colorado to compete for a rotation spot and possibly act as a swingman. Towers will be paid $1.8 if he makes the team, but only $400,000 if he's cut in spring training. The weird thing is that Sparrow didn't seem like much worse of a bet than some of the best free agent pitchers on the market, like Carlos Silva or Kyle Lohse. The Rockies got a nice little deal, and Sparrow fans who shudder at the thought of Coors Field can at least think nice thoughts about the pitcher's parks in the NL West in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego, and the less intimidating lineups out west. Though I have to confess a little relief that he's no longer an option for the Jays, he had some great performances for us (as well as some awful ones) - Best of luck, Sparrow! Keep your socks and your spirits high!