Cubs Potential Offseason Targets: Kelly Johnson

I'm in the midst of one of my hell projects at work, this one just happens to be a little more hellish and is gonna last until December. In order to keep the fun going around here, I thought I'd present some reasonable trade and free agent targets over the next weeks - some of the low-hanging fruit that will probably be more in line with Hendry's budget for 2010.  I'm not really going to make a case one way or another, rather just try and open up the discussion. Today's guest is Atlanta Braves second basemen Kelly Johnson....

Braves GM Frank Wren came out today and said Martin Prado will pretty much go into 2010 as the their starting second basemen which leaves Kelly Johnson as prime trade bait. It doesn't mean the Braves have to move him, but he's certainly going to be available for the right price, which can't be a whole lot for a guy with a .692 OPS last year. He's also arbitration eligible and coming off a 2.85M payday in 2009, so it's very possible - let's go ahead and call it likely - that he'll just end up being non-tendered if he's not traded before December 12th.

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP
2005 23 87 334 290 46 70 12 3 9 40 2 1 40 75 .241 .334 .397 .731 91 11 1
2007 25 147 608 521 91 144 26 10 16 68 9 5 79 117 .276 .375 .457 .831 117 8 4
2008 26 150 614 547 86 157 39 6 12 69 11 6 52 113 .287 .349 .446 .795 108 3 2
2009 27 106 346 303 47 68 20 3 8 29 7 2 32 54 .224 .303 .389 .692 82 4 3
4 Seasons 490 1902 1661 270 439 97 22 45 206 29 14 203 359 .264 .346 .430 .777 103 26 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/22/2009.

Kelly Johnson.A tough year for Johnson in 2009 and honestly in 2008 he didn't look to great either until he just went nuts in September with a 1.071 OPS to bring his season OPS to a respectable .795 for a second basemen. And he did battle through a knee injury for most of 2008 as well. Defensively, BP has his Rate2 numbers as above average at 108 for his career while UZR over at Fangraphs doesn't think highly of him at all. The Fan's Scouting Report compiled by TangoTiger seems to think of him as average to below average at second base.

On the upside, 2010 will be his age 28 season compared to it being Mike Fontenot's age 30 season and the Cubs could definitely use an infusion of talent under the age of 30.  His minor league numbers cumulated to a .832 OPS, but he broke out in 2005 with an OPS of 1.018 in Triple A at age 23 and looked well on his way in 2006 before an elbow injury and Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his season. Actually, Johnson started out as a left fielder(make that shortstop, then 3b, then left field) in the Braves system and that injury forced him to second
base, but enough time has passed that there's the very small possibility that he could fill a
utility role of some kind. If there's one thing that really makes me think it would be a good idea to go after Johnson, is that he had a BABIP of .249 last year, compared to his .313 career mark. He's either forgotten how to hit a baseball or last year was more about bad luck than anything else. He has a career walk rate of 10.9% which is on the high end and sees 3.94 pitches per plate appearance although both numbers have taken a hit over the last two seasons. Either he's losing his patient approach at the plate or pitchers have been more willing to go after him as his power numbers have dropped off.

There's no way the Cubs would pull off a trade for Johnson and just hand him a job, the only reasonable scenarios are make a trade or sign him after he's non-tendered and then let him compete with Jeff Baker...that is unless the Cubs end up signing Chone Figgins to play second base which I have my doubts will happen.  Also any reasonable scenario of bringing Johnson in would mean the end of the Godenot era, but I personally have no problems with that as Johnson is younger, higher upside and has had major league success as a regular.

So how say you TCR readers, should the Cubs make a run at Johnson?

*UPDATE* I should note that Mike Fontenot does have one option year left and at 2 year and 139 service days (according to Arizona Phil) it appears he's going to miss Super Two status by two days
meaning the Cubs could bring him back on an auto-renew and send him to
the minors if there's no spot for him after spring training.


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Comments

"would mean the end of the Godenot era, but I personally have no problems "

Until an unemployed Esther moves into your house.

Trade low level prospect for him and non-tender Fontenot

Trade Aaron Miles for him???????????

they should definitely trade Aaron Miles for him, and while they're at it see if we can get Lincecum or Greinke for Samardzija straight up.

Maybe we can add Milton Bradley to sweeten the deal?

if the Braves were willing to tolerate Bradley, a Bradley for Johnson deal would be fantastic imo...doubt the Cubs would get much better talent for Bradley.

also doubt the Braves are interested in Bradley.

Its' funny you say that, that is one of the trades Steve Phillips said he would make if he were Cubs' GM.

small update at end of post, looks like Fontenot will not qualify as Super Two...

This may or may not have something to do with my lifelong man-crush on Sandberg, but I've always liked the idea of, well, a starting 2B, something this team hasn't had in a long time (although we had 2 in 2003, go figure).

I did the same math you did, Rob, when I saw the Prado comments this morning. Didn't realize how far Johnson's bat had fallen, but this guy could be a perfect new project for..... JARAMILLO-MAN!!! (along with everything else he's got to fix)

And one more thing just occurred to me, LF, 2B, Braves..... this guy could be the next DeRosa!! And Jaramillo changed DeRo's life, ergo....

Young, Morandini, DeRosa?

I imagine if you look at any team after they just had a HOF caliber player manning the position for 10+ years, they've almost all had a hard time filling the role for longer than a couple years at a time.

"That whole situation couldn't have been handled better by Kelly. He handled it so gracefully, and it gave all of us who are his best friends permission to root for Prado."

When the Braves removed Johnson from his regular role and then asked him to regain his swing during this Minor League rehab assignment, they were impressed with the dignity he displayed. He never publicly criticized the organization or the decision, which was based on the fact that he'd hit .191 with a .257 on-base percentage in his previous 39 games.

"Kelly has handled all of this like a true professional," Wren said.

http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd...

I love the guy already...

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/p...

not a big Ozzie fan, but that should be some entertaining television...

Will there be subtitles?

If they want real fireworks they should pair Ozzie with Hunter Wendlestat in studio.

"Dat cull by dat umpire was buwshit."

HAAAAAAA. Yeah. Always a fan of second language phonetic comedy. Which second language is it you've nailed to perfection?

Give me 20 years to learn it..I'll nail Spaniish. Thanks.

Laugh if you want, but you know Ozzie won't be able to do this without dropping an f bomb. Or at least "buwshit".

Another Braves 2B worth considering is their utility guy, Omar Infante. He's an enigmatic player who's shown signs of breaking out in the past, has hit well in limited exposure the last couple years and gets to balls up the middle pretty well. At 27, he's right on the verge of that magic year Hendry likes to cash in on. He's got a reasonable contract @ 2.5 million.

the guy the Cubs traded to rid themselves of Will Ohman?

Infante is a utlilty bench player...johnson has upside to be a contributing regular.

I wouldn't condemn him just cuz the braintrust decided to trade him. He put up a 101 OPS+ at age 22 in full time play while Johnson's 3-year stat line reads like a guy falling down a stairway. I think he's got potential to take a step forward into a full-time role. Johnson's intriguing but I'm hard pressed to think of a 2B who has successfully reversed a multi-year decline as marked as his.

I'm condemning him because he's 5-9" waif and shown no power since a fluke year in 2004 and doesn't show any really patience either.

as for Johnson's decline, yeah, that's the rub...do the Cubs think it's fixable or is he on his way out of the league? That I can't possibly answer from my laptop....

I also would prefer Infante over Kelly Johnson because Infante gives you plus defense and can play legit SS and, imo, legit 3B. If you're going to put a dud in the lineup, at least put one in who can play good defense.

But, the problem with Omar Infante is they already have Omar Infante... they just call him Andres Blanco. And it's true and well documented I like Andres Blanco, but I don't like him so much I think they need two of him.

Shit, at one point we had three of him, and the last was acquired by trading Greg Maddux.

I don't see the point, in all honesty, unless it's a free agent pickup. Even then, I'm still not sure I see a point. Btw, I think Kelly started his career as a shortstop, or was drafted as one, was shifted to the OF, then moved back to 2nd when they started developing some guys.

Short of it is ... why spend assets, money and/or talent to add a guy who, while I agree he is better than Fontenot and more of a regular possibility than Fontenot, would be, in all likelihood, a platoon option here, and Fontenot is passable as a platoon option if the team wanted. If he's free and comes really cheap, sure, I'd take a look.

I do expect Kelly Johnson to bounce back, but right now, with the payroll as such, I'd rather focus on more significant upgrades, is possible.

Fontenot was anything but passable this year and I'm not at all sure about him bouncing back and we all know Jeff Baker is going to fade back into oblivion.

But if you are expecting Johnson to bounce back to an .800 OPS with doubles power and a good patient approach, then that would likely be a steal, whether it be a few C prospects or $2M after he's non-tendered.

and yes, drafted as a shortstop, played 3b in the minors as well, then left field and then 2b after surgery and most likely to fill an organizational hole.

anyway, major upgrades are most likely not happening unless Hendry can pull off trading the bulk of  Bradley's contract and one of the starting pitchers contracts (Dempster or Lilly). It's gonna be about finding guys off down years and at low prices and hoping the Cubs scouts can get lucky discovering a few players.

I probably wasn't clear in the original post, but I was suggesting that I think Fontenot would be passable as a platoon option, not as a regular. I think Fontenot is a better hitter than he was this year, although not as good as folks thought he was last year.

I'm also not sure why Jeff Baker is going to fade back into oblivion. I'm not expecting Jeff to be as good as he was down the stretch for us, but I think it's certainly possible that Jeff is finally starting to show some of the immense potential that people expected when he was drafted.

I'm not expecting major changes either, although I expect the Cubs to make a push for one FA acquisition. Heck, I've made the case before that, while Sam Fuld isn't a long term starter, that he fits the Cubs needs enough that I'm not so sure that a Fuld/Baker combination wouldn't be better than what we could likely do at CF/2nd (along with upgrading CF defense) when all factors are considered. Not that I am expecting Fuld to get that chance (and have heard it several times that he's only a backburner option). Short of it is, for all the talk about a middle of the order bat addition, I think the Cubs best chances to help the middle of the order will come from Jaramillo helping Soto/Soriano get back to form.

he's Jeff Baker, he basically had one great month for the Cubs last year and isn't going to keep up that .374 BABIP he had for the Cubs last year....

Best case solution:

Let Tony Thomas start the year in Iowa

Let Fonty and Baker platoon 2nd base in 2010

If Thomas shows he is ready, then you can trade/non tender Fonty and Baker next offseason.

Or

Trade for JJ Hardy

Best case solution: trade Bradley for Utley, Philly also gives us some cash.

they'll need a 2bmen too then, I say we chip in Aaron Miles just to make them feel like they're getting deal....

2 for 1 Phil Rogers approved trade...

Well now the deal is just getting ridiculous.

Fontenot has had his chance and failed. Not only with the bat, but idiotic baseball sense last season. He just needs to go, period. And as Rob says, Fontenot will be 30 next season. How much more improvement can one expect? I would non-tender him.

Unless they're thinking Miles is going to actually do something here, I would think they have to bring in more competition at 2b for Baker. I see Baker as more of the utility guy who starts 1/3rd of the games at 2b unless he proves he's better than that. He has the upside to hit 15-20 hr's, but despite his nice run so far as a Cub, he's still very unproven as a big league starter in my book.

Miles' shot with the Cubs might hinge in part on how much of Bradley's contract they have to eat. We just heard Ricketts has laid down the law with Hendry on how much of a contract we can eat, so maybe the best shot we have to dump Miles is to trade him for another contract.

And these people who expected Baker's immense potential to come to the forefront were his mom and who else?

They got Ascanio in the Infante plus Ohman deal on 11-12-07. Ascanio (plus Kevin Hart and milb 3B Josh Harrison) was flipped to the Pirates in the Grabow/Gorz deal

Infante will get $1.85 million this year and $2,225,000 in 2010, and the Braves hold a $2.5 million option for 2011 with a $250,000 buyout. He can earn additional performance bonuses each year based on plate appearances from 180-580: $300,000 this year, $775,000 in 2010 and $1 million in 2011.

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2009/jan/12/om...

MLBTR is reporting their own rumor that Cubs, White Sox and Cardinals have interest in Chapman

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/10/cubs-white-s...

Chapman is of course the 21-year old Cuban defector with a 100 mph fastball...southpaw. expected to get anywhere from $30 to $60M....

Can we trade Bradley to Cuba for him? Oh that doesn't work...can we give Bradley to Chapman in exchange for Chapman? No? Oh, ok, then we're not getting Chapman.

Can we have Chapman wait outside Bradley's apartment building and ask for his autograph and then...nevermind.

why get kelly johnson when you already have fontenot/baker? ugg.

fontenot/baker makes more sense to me than kelly johnson. johnson's upside is matched by the 2 guys he'd be replacing at a similar price to the 2 combined. the word "upgrade" doesn't come into the equation with johnson involved, imo.

he's got a very unpolished/ordinary swing (constantly changing last season, very long through the zone for a chunk of it...ever-changing foot work at the plate). i dunno where/how he can squeeze much more out of it. hell, him and jeff baker are very similar players, imo.

I don't know if he's an upgrade, it basically boils down if the Hendry's scouts like him more than what they have...

I see a player a younger than both of them, a little more patient, a little more success at the major league level, decent lefty/righty splits and possibly could play more positions if needed....

says Castro #1, Jackson #2 and Vitters #3 right now

Vitters for Granderson would be reasonable for him...(not an actual rumor, but Tigers likely looking to dump some salary)

thinks it's not far-fetched that Bryce Harper could drop out of first round

No way Bryce Harper falls out of the 1st round.

The new rules takes away most of the leverage for guys like Harper. Washington can draft him #1. Then get the #2 pick if they cannot sign him.

I really wish Baseball would go with a worldwide draft, that players would have to sign up for. Just like every other professional sports league in America.

i doubt it either, but the theory by Callis is that Harper's demands will be so high and at age 17, he can re-enter the draft for a good 2-3 years until he gets what he wants. So whatever his pre-draft demands are, it's highly unlikely he's going to back off of them....

see Harrington, Matt

see Hochevar, Luke

and Harper not being a pitcher probably has a lot less to worry about career-ending injury than a pitcher....

considering he's entering the draft a year sooner than he should be, I'm guessing he's going to hold out for exactly what he wants...

that being said, no way the Red Sox or Yanks don't pay him and there's no way the Cubs should let him get past their pick.

Doubt he is "toolsy" enough or looks impressive enough in a uniform for the Cubs to reach on.

If Golden Tate is still there though. He should probably get over slot for his athleticism.

Keith Law also noted that he thought Castro, in a few years, could post a slugging percentage above .440, which would be awfully sweet. That said, that's a few year's down the road. Compared Castro's bat to Soriano's, but with much better contact ability.

I'm glad to see Vitters move down on somebody's list.

Vitters is fine long-term (maybe his hand will heal some day) but there are at least four position players who seem to be on a very fast track right now--Castro, LeMahieu, Lee and B. Jackson--and they can all use their gloves, which Vitters hasn't shown.

Speaking of guys who are still dining out on their reputation as of the day they were drafted: Cashner had another so-so outing today.

vitters is doing everything people expect him to do so far, but his obvious lack of being able to play 3rd is killing his "prospect value."

i'd like to know if he's RF-capable, myself. when he was drafted his arm was just raved over...which is pretty much why it was assumed he could just have his glove-work corrected to match up to the arm. his range has always been suspect, but his arm was rubber-stamped as a no-doubter.

i doubt the cubs will move him any time soon, but he's doing nothing to let people think he's going to play 3rd for a living. everyone likes his bat, but a lot of people are working on the assumption his next (and eventual) stop is 1st.

The fact that he walks at Colvin-esque rates lead me to believe he will bust.

Best case is probably Shea Hillenbrand 2.0

Maybe we can trade him while his value is high? How about Vitters for Weiters?

yeah, he's a hell of a free swinger to a fault. he's got a lot of pop, though. one of the few kids in the system with a legit shot at 30-40HR season upside.

Reading around in BA, I find this October 1 item in which Callis suggests that Castro may not be the only position player ahead of Vitters:

Navin (NorthSideBaseBall): So if I read your Brett Jackson response correctly ("no lower than 3"), you'd rate Jackson as a better prospect in the MWL than Josh Vitters? I'm surprised by that.

Jim Callis: I would have been to before I started working on the list. But everyone loved Jackson, and he's going to have more value if they both develop as hoped and he's playing center field while Vitters is playing first base. Not sure which way I'll go after delving into this further for our eventual Cubs Top 30.

or you could have read comment #19 above....

That's funny, I did read #19, that's what got me going on the whole subject, but I assumed he was talking about Jay Jackson.

Jim Callis: "I would have been to before I started working on the list"
-
Nice to see English is not Callis' native language.

It's his second language...give him a break.

Oh, I probably shouldn't take the bait, but what the hell--it's a Friday. Of course it's okay to mock Jim Callis or any other English-speaking journalist/publisher for English gaffes. They're professional, public communicators in America. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that 90% have college degrees. Clearly they should know better.

Mocking foreign baseball players for not speaking English well, however, is just lame. Communicating to the media in a second, and sometimes third language can be no easy feat. And while I'm not saying most ballplayers are dumb, I am saying that many are uneducated. I don't think it's cool to make fun of someone's language skills because they make a lot of money.

Someone intimated earlier with the "give me 20 years and I'll nail Spanish" that Ozzie should speak better English. And yes, it's fine to expect a manger to communicate clearly with the media. But he does speak English, however goofy it may sound to you. That doesn't make it cool to make fun of his accent.

Mocking foreign speech on a blog isn't exactly the same, but it's the little sister to the nonsense that went on when Clemente was in Pittsburgh in the 60s and the papers quoted him phonetically to call out his accent. Just bad form.

Of course things today are just like the 1960's.

Oh.

Should read "I would have been, too, before I started working on the list"

So I'm an english nazi, so sue me........

Jesus.

Great idea. Why would we want good players when we can get Kelly Johnson?

I know, I know, this is just an idea being batted around on TCR, but why not Orlando Hudson?

yeah, he could be a future installment...

but he's also 32 next year and got himself benched going into the playoffs by Ronnie Belliard...

I know I'm psyched...

(yes, Johnson got benched for Prado but at least he's considerably younger and in theory cheaper to obtain)

With economics being what they are, I imagine we will see quite a few unexpected Non-Tenders.

Hopefully none of them end up with 5/55 and NTC's from us.

Wait...wait...you guys are brushing aside that Johnson does not have 1.000 OPS potential with OUR NEW DAVE DUNCAN OF HITTING????!!!

C'mon men!

This is a new era!!!

Will there be subtitles?

That reminds me... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVCvthr95io

Beautiful... just beautiful.

Dave Kaplan is having Jaramillo and Hendry on WGN Radio Sportscentral tonight, his show just started at 7pm Chicago time.

Jaramillo is going to be on from 7:15 to about 7:30, Hendry from 7:35 'til 8PM.

You can listen in on the Interwebs:
http://www.wgnradio.com/

strasburg spent an hour today taking himself out of the running for AFL mvp...

2.2 ip, 7 h, 8 r, 7 er, 1 bb, 4 k, 3 hr, 60 pitches, 36 strikes...

You're not allowed to correct your spelling errors until after I've made a snide comment.

hahah..awesome.

and mr stasburg agrees.

Hey Crunch, I finally got around to watching Sugar last night. Good flick.

yeah...it's one of my favorites now. it's not a mega-classic, but it's a fresh story told well.

ROB G: If the "Super Two" cut-off is indeed 2+141, here are the "Super Twos"...

SUPER TWO:
Joey Devine, RHP - A's 2.+171
Brian Wilson, RHP - Giants 2+169
Rajai Davis, OF - A's 2+167
Alex Gordon, 3B - Royals 2+162
Mike Adams, RHP - Padres 2+161
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP - Cubs 2+161
Omar Quintanilla, INF - Rockies 2+159
Jesus Flores, C - Nationals 2+158
Hunter Pence, OF - Astros 2+156
Jason Hammel, RHP - Rockies 2+153
Matt Garza, RHP - Rays 2+149
Tim Lincecum, RHP - Giants 2+148
Nick Masset, RHP - Reds 2+146
Jeff Karstens, RHP - Pirates 2+144
Matt Albers, RHP - Orioles 2+141
Carlos Gomez, OF - Twins 2+141

CUT-OFF?
Dustin Nippert, RHP - Rangers 2+140
Adam Jones, OF - Orioles 2+139
Mike Fontenot, 2B - Cubs 2+139
Brandon Morrow, RHP - Mariners 2+139
Micah Owings, RHP - Reds 2+139
Mark Reynolds, 3B - Diamondbacks 2+138
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C - Rangers 2+137
Allberto Callaspo, INF - Royals 2+135
Glen Perkins, RHP - Twins 2+133 - see NOTE
Anibal Sanchez, RHP - Marlins 2+133
Ben Zobrist, INF - Rays 2+133
Joe Smith, RHP - Indians 2+132
Fred Lewis, OF - Giants 2+129
Jeremy Sowers, P - Indians 2+128
Mike Pelfrey, RHP - Mets 2+122
NOTE: The Twins optioned Glen Perkins to AAA after he was reactivated from the DL in September, thus keeping Perkins from being a "Super Two" post-2009. So Perkins will likely file a grievance and he could win, but that won't change the cut-off once it's set. That's because a "Super Two" can be a FA if outrighted to the minors prior to signing a contract for the following season, and it could cause a problem if a player is designated "Super Two" and then has it removed, because a club could claim it would have outrighted the player if the player had not been a "Super Two."

Also, while it appears that Gorzelanny easily qualified as a "Super Two" by virtue of MLB ST, he actually just barely qualified because he accrued only 87 days of MLB ST in 2009, and a "Super Two" must accrue at least 86 days of MLB ST in that season in order to qualify as a "Super Two."

One other thing. Note that Rajai Davis is a "Super Two," and so he might be available in a trade in case the Cubs choose not to bring Reed Johnson back but are looking for a speedy OF who can platoon with Fukudome and hit lead-off. .

not that I care, but shouldn't that read 2+171 and so on down the line? I only ask because I was about to put it the TCR Friday notes.

Submitted by Rob G. on Fri, 10/23/2009 - 11:17am.
not that I care, but shouldn't that read 2+171 and so on down the line? I only ask because I was about to put it the TCR Friday notes.

==========================================

ROB G: Thanks for catching that. I'll fix it.

There are a few things to point out about Johnson's season that rarely gets mentioned. In June when he lost his job to Prado he was playing through a wrist injury. He spent almost a month on the DL and rehabbing in AAA. He returned after the break to post a .851 OPS (although in decreasing playing time once Infante returned even though he was pretty bad), but he looked really good and his patience at the plate returned. I would guess that he will return to being a slightly above average second baseman next season. Beware of his streakiness, but at the end of the day you will look up and he will post solid numbers. Defensively, he can either be average or below average. He is really atheletic and can make great plays. His errors come in bunches and since he is not a natural, long layoffs in playing time and rust will show. He is a smart player though; never seen a bad relay throw and probably one of the best baserunners in baseball.

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