ST. PETERSBURG -- Finally, it's official: Kyle Farnsworth will return to the Rays and Kelly Johnson will join the team.
Since the cat had been out of the bag about those moves for over a week now, the biggest news Tuesday came in the fact the Rays had to clear room on the 40-man roster for the pair, so they designated for assignment infielders Reid Brignac and Elliott Johnson. Both are out of options, which means they will have to clear waivers in order for Tampa Bay to keep them in the organization. Should another team claim either, they would have to make the roster of the claiming team.
Luke Scott has also been reported to be in the fold, but that deal is not yet official. When it does become official, the Rays will have to clear another spot on the roster.
Farnsworth, 36, will earn a base salary of $1.25 million in 2013. The 14-year veteran will start his third year with Tampa Bay after compiling a 2.76 ERA over the 2011-12 seasons. Farnsworth said five or six other teams were initially involved, but the decision came down to returning to the Rays or going with one other team. Once the decision process reached that stage, Farnsworth said his choice was a no-brainer.
"I've been very fortunate to be able play for Tampa the last two years," Farnsworth said. "... Being able to be close to my family and spring train here and play here is pretty hard to beat in any situation. It's a great young team coming up, the way the guys play and the way the organization is run is top notch. ... That's pretty much why I came back."
Farnsworth missed nearly half the 2012 season after being sidelined with a right elbow strain that he suffered during Spring Training. After being activated from the disabled list on June 30, he posted a 4.00 ERA in 34 games.
Farnsworth said his elbow feels great and he sounded ready to fill whatever role in which Tampa Bay wants to use him. Serving as the Rays' closer in 2011, he recorded career bests with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He ranks third among active pitchers with 810 career appearances, trailing only Mariano Rivera (1,051) and LaTroy Hawkins (871).
Kelly Johnson, 30, who hits from the left side, will earn a base salary of $2.45 million in 2013. In 2012, he hit .225 with 16 home runs, 55 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 142 games with the Blue Jays. Over the last three seasons, Johnson has averaged 21 home runs, 61 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and 148 games played. A veteran of seven Major League seasons, he has spent time with the Braves, D-backs and Blue Jays.
Johnson will likely play a lot of second base, and he also will have stints in the outfield based on pitching matchups. He described "a slow process for me" when asked about the free-agency path that led to him signing with Tampa Bay.
"I don't think second base is a need for a lot of teams this year," Johnson said. "And coming off kind of a disappointing year, I wasn't expecting to be Shane Victorino or Josh Hamilton. But I knew it was going to happen later. There were about three or four [other] teams [interested]."
Both Brignac and Elliot Johnson have started at shortstop for the Rays during the past two seasons.
Brignac appeared perched to take over the position for good when Jason Bartlett was traded to the Padres prior to the 2011 season. But Brignac's bat did not match his excellence in the field, which resulted in him spending most of the 2012 season at Triple-A Durham. He played in just 16 Major League games last season and hit .095.
"Obviously, I don't know what's going to happen," Brignac said. "But I feel good about everything that happened here with the Rays. I've been around some great people. There's no hard feelings at all. I'm just looking forward to the next chapter in my life."
Elliot Johnson played in 123 games for Tampa Bay in 2012 and hit .242 with six home runs, 33 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. He said he wasn't too surprised about getting designated after he heard the team had signed Kelly Johnson.
"Unfortunately, I think my time here in Tampa has come to an end," Elliot Johnson said.
Given the situation, Johnson said it's a tough situation professionally since he loves the Rays organization, but he wants to be in the Major Leagues.
"In this business, you don't want to just stay with an organization, you want to be in the Major Leagues," Johnson said. "That's where it's at. ... There's a big difference between being in the big leagues and the Minor Leagues. It's huge.
"I feel like I'm a Major League ballplayer. I think I proved that last year with my play. I may have scuffled a little bit defensively, but I played great defensively in 2011. I did pretty well from an offensive standpoint last year, but I didn't do as well as I'd have liked. But overall, I was pretty happy with my results. I'm looking forward to having a new opportunity in a different place in 2013. Of course, it's a little bittersweet."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.