Dan Johnson, a folk hero for hitting two of the franchise's biggest home runs, has declined an assignment to AAA and will instead become a free agent this winter.
The Tampa Bay Rays may not have a long history, but the once moribund franchise has quickly added to its lore in recent years with surprising runs to the postseason. There are numerous players and coaches responsible for the Rays' turnaround several years ago, and even more who pitched in during the club's historic comeback in the American League wild card race this year.
One of those guys is Dan Johnson, who hit two of the biggest homeruns in franchise history. In case you had forgotten, Johnson was the one who saved the Rays' season when he hit a 9th inning homerun against the New York Yankees in the 162nd and final game of the season. The two-out, two-strike shot tied the game, and it was his last hit with the Rays, as he failed to collect a hit in the postseason and has now declined a AAA assignment to Durham and instead opted to become a free agent this winter. Johnson's flair for the dramatic also helped Tampa Bay reach the postseason in 2008, when his two-out long ball off Jonathan Papelbon put the Rays over the top and into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Johnson's 2011 season was an unequivocal disappointment however. In 84 at bats, he hit .119 with two home runs and 4 runs batted in before losing his job to Casey Kotchman. In his six Big League seasons with the Rays and Oakland Athletics, Johnson has a career batting average of .235, with 53 home runs and 188 runs batted in. The Rays must now find a true first baseman in free agency or somewhere in their farm system, as the team enters the offseason without one on their roster.