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.
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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