Cubs Sign Reed Johnson to Minor League Deal

ESPN's Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs have signed 34-year old free-agent OF Reed Johnson to a minor league contact with an invitation to Spring Training.

The right-handed hitting Johnson played college ball at Cal State - Fullerton, and was a 17th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999. He made his big league debut in 2003, and is a career 281/340/408 hitter in MLB. He was released by Toronto at the end of Spring Training 2008 (the Jays wanted to avoid paying him the $3.2M salary he won in arbitration), and he was immediately signed by the Cubs. Johnson played for the Cubs in 2008 and 2009 and did a nice job, hitting 303/358/420 with six HR and 20 doubles in 109 games in 2008 while platooning with Jim Edmonds in CF. and 255/330/412 with four HR and ten doubles in just 65 games in 2009. 

Johnson signed with the Dodgers after leaving the Cubs, and hit 262/291366 with two HR and 11 RBI in 45 games last season.

Johnson has a chronic back problem that his landed him on the DL for extended periods over the past two seasons, but when healthy he is a decent 4th OF. Ryan Dempster had lobbied to bring the popular Johnson back to the Cubs when he was a free-agent post-2009, but the Cubs chose to let him look elsewhere.  

Johnson will battle Fernando Perez, Brad Snyder and James Adduci for a back-up OF job in Spring Training. and while he is signed to a minor league contract, Johnson probably has an opt-out clause in his contract allowing him to demand his release if he does not make the Cubs 2011 Opening Day 25-man roster.

The Cubs have also agreed to an $850K 2011 contract with 31-year old back-up catcher Koyie Hill, avoiding arbitration. The switch-hitting Hill has been with the Cubs since 2007, and has been the team's primary back-up catcher for the past two seasons.  

Hill is a career 215/276/302 hitter in the big leagues, and has hit 211/271/299 in 206 games (642 PA) as a Cub. He has thrown out 28% of opposing base-stealers in his career (but only 18% last season). The veteran backstop has good receiving skills and is a smart and savvy game-caller and handler of pitchers, and that has kept him in a Cub uniform despite a weak bat,

Hill played college ball at Wichita State, and was a member of Team USA in 1999. He played 3B at Wichita State and 2B with Team USA, and then was converted to catcher after getting drafted and signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000. Once a Dodgers Top 10 Prospect, Hill suffered a broken ankle in a home plate collision after being acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade for Steve Finley in 2004, and then he sustained a near career-ending hand injury when he cut off his thumb and two of his fingers of his right hand (throwing hand) with a table saw after the 2007 season. Doctors were able to surgically reattach the thumb and fingers in a way that allowed him to continue his baseball career.  

The Cubs originally signed Hill as a Rule 55 minor league FA after the 2006 season.


We're putting the BAND back together, man! Can DeRo be far behind?

BTW, that gulp you just heard was Brad Snyder thinking about how he'll never get to sniff the $400K ML minimum he was hoping to pull this year.


I haven't combed through the other thread yet, so maybe someone has asked, but I'm curious on your take that James Russell is going to be stretched out with a chance to be in the rotation again (Bruce Miles speculated on this before, and I believe Quade made comments to that effect today, which Bruce notes in his latest blog post).

I remember being quite fascinated about James as a starter (plenty of lefties have succeeded with weaker stuff), and his numbers weren't bad, but he just never seemed to take to it too well. The long ball plagued him a bit in AA. Add in his splits last year, and I'm not sure that he's a starter, and feel like he's probably best utilized as a middle relief LOOGY.

Of course, stretching a guy out in spring is just fine, particularly since if James is in the pen, he'll likely be in a middle relief, possible long man role.

On his best day though, how is Russell even potentially as good as Wells, Silva, Gorzelanny or Cashner for starters? Seems like a dumb idea on the part of the Cubs unless they plan on trading Russell and are going to try and pump up his value in Arizona. Otherwise, the team needs a LOOGY, I would think it's a 50/50 battle between Russell and Maine, no? Grabow isn't particularly tough on lefties, so I don't think he's a real option for that role.

Submitted by toonsterwu on Wed, 01/12/2011 - 3:41pm.

I haven't combed through the other thread yet, so maybe someone has asked, but I'm curious on your take that James Russell is going to be stretched out with a chance to be in the rotation again (Bruce Miles speculated on this before, and I believe Quade made comments to that effect today, which Bruce notes in his latest blog post).

I remember being quite fascinated about James as a starter (plenty of lefties have succeeded with weaker stuff), and his numbers weren't bad, but he just never seemed to take to it too well. The long ball plagued him a bit in AA. Add in his splits last year, and I'm not sure that he's a starter, and feel like he's probably best utilized as a middle relief LOOGY.

Of course, stretching a guy out in spring is just fine, particularly since if James is in the pen, he'll likely be in a middle relief, possible long man role.


TOONSTER: I think the idea of trying James Russell as a starter in Spring Training is further evidence that the Cubs plan to trade Tom Gorzelanny. While they may say that they don't care if the rotation is all right-handed, Quade would probably like to have at least one lefty starter in the rotation, as long as the lefty is effective. And if he doesn't make the Cubs Opening Day roster as a starter, he could be kept stretched-out at Iowa, or he could be moved back to the builpen if he is needed there.

Russell is a fly ball pitcher, which tends to not to be good for a lefty reliever unless he has power stuff. Russell generally pitched well out of the Cubs bullpen last year, and when he was not successful, it was usually when he was tagged for a HR.

Russell has a nice variety of stuff, and he has the ability to throw strikes and keep his pitch count low. What got him moved to the bullpen was a strong finish as a reliever at Iowa at the end of the 2009 season, and then he was the #1 lefty reliever in the AFL post-2009. That got him noticed.

Then Russell had a very good Spring Training last March and made the Cubs Opening Day roster as a reliever, but the ineffectiveness of John Grabow probably kept Russell around Chicago longer than would have otherwise been the case.

I actually like the idea of moving Russell to the starting rotation. The long ball isn't as much of a concern for a starting pitcher, and as I said, he has the command and variety of stuff you would want in a starter. He would also have more trade value as a starter.

To me, Scott Maine looks more like a LOOGY than Russell, and the Cubs have a couple of younger guys coming up through the system (Jeffrey Beliveau and Jeff Lorick) who are pretty good lefty relief prospects.

We have Guyer's replacement!

Taken as simple picking up some ST insurance moves, these deals are fine. Thinking about them as Chirinos and Guyer replacements, they're depressing.

Fernando Perez responds to satirical Cubs Brickyard article and enjoys mocking the writer.

i guess he doesn't "get it" or have a "sense of humor." know, since he disagrees.

high fives, beers with bros, and wooooo! for all.

Perez is my new favorite player.

We need to ink Neifi! Today Dude

He might end up saving us again?

you can have him for $100 worth of meth or a 3-refill prescription of Adderall.

...another victim of speed abuse in baseball. derek bell agrees.

shot down by Kerry Wood

"I have no interest in broadcasting and that report is untrue."

Levine says Wood will have a role with organization as long as he wants, but nothing specific was said about broadcasting

also says there were two 2/$10M offers out there for him...

kerry wood is gonna get one hell of a standing ovation for a guy who's setup relief.

amazing contract he took with the cubs...hell of a gift.

Boers and Bernstein strike again!!!

Wonder if those were the same mystery clubs that had higher offers to Soriano,KFuk,Dempster,Bradley,Howry and Stevie Ire?

don't think it was reported that anyone was offering more for Soriano, the report was McDonough and Kenney tacked on another year w/o Hendry's knowing to get the deal done. Angels and other teams were definitely interested, but not at 8 years.

Demp I don't recall, thought he signed before he could become a FA, but my memory is fuzzy on that. Anyway, he's been worth his contract easily.

Fukudome was allegedly Padres and White Sox with better offers.

there was a 2 year offer for Bradley supposedly.

Howry, Eyre and Grab-Ass seem to get the top of the set-up market.

Why do you bitch about Cubs not acting like a big market team and then bitch when they do? Cause the Yanks, Mets, Red Sox are nothing but pitch perfect with every contract they give out.

The Cubs don't act like a big market team. They massively overpay 3rd tier players. Not the same thing.

there's a yanks blog somewhere for a team willing to spend 200+ million to appease you.

There's a DA meeting somewhere where you can talk about your Douche-ery with simillarly afflicted folks.

hahaha. awesome.

seriously, though...howry wasn't a horrible contract...dumpster definately isn't imo...

grabes/eyre was a weird one, but for both it's a million or 2 here or there over the total years...fuku was a bad gamble...soriano went for market, though he got an extra year.

it's not like the yanks/rsox never signed a bad deal or don't have baggage. rsox are doing a bit better, but the yanks have c.granderson for christ's sake.

It's not the signing of the bad deals I'm joking about. It was more the trend during the McFail/Hendry regimes to have newspaper cover for their mistakes.


Someone always pens the "Cubs got below market for player X".

Yeah....Granderson is horrible...if he was a Cub, Cub fans would be more than happy with him in CF.

He's black.

thing is, this time, there is no mystery at least to one of the teams involved. It was well acknowledged that the Yankees gave him more years and money and he simply opted to come back to us.

There were indications that, in terms of years, the Red Sox and White Sox both gave him offers.

He came back because Ricketts gave him a "Personal Services" contract for when he retired. He'd rather me the modern Ron Santo than Duane Ward in 25 years.

I wouldn't read too much into the speculation. By most accounts, Wood had an offer from the Yankees (and others), approached Hendry first, then had his discussion with Ricketts.

Thing is, most players go for the money they can get now, and particularly if they've got a few more playing years left.

At the end of the day, I think Wood came back for 2 reasons

a) He wanted to be back.

b) Perhaps he thought he could rebuild his value a bit better in the NL and go for a longer deal later.

The side note that isn't really being discussed is that there is a decent chance that Wood may be our closer in the future. The Cubs have noticeably not signed Marmol down (and I think Bruce Miles said that was due to concerns over the mechanics, justifiably so). It wouldn't stun me if the Cubs parted ways after 2012.

sucks to be the yanks...seems petitte has decided he won't pitch to start the season no matter what (he doesn't have a contract from anyone).

that said...when he is slated to take the stand in the clemens perjury trial? i thought that was a mid-season thing.

who's the backup plan...duroshshshshsher...c.young?'s quickly debunked....

"The New York Daily News ran a piece on Wednesday evening claiming that Pettitte told Yankees general manager Brian Cashman that he would not open the 2011 season in the club's rotation. But Cashman told The Journal News later that he was misquoted and that Pettitte has given the club no new information"

...and the clemens trial is in July.

Muskat's article on Russell getting a shot as a starter.

...but what is interesting is the Cashner video on the link. He faces 3 Padre batters and on the last K, the speed gun reading on the TV hit 101.

He can run it up there, but part of the problem with him as a starter in 2009 was that he still didn't know how to pace himself that well as he returned to starting. He's better off working in the mid-90's and lasting longer.

Just curious on everyone's thoughts on this...why is it that in basketball, football, soccer and tennis, some of the best athletes in the world perform at their best and are expected to be their best at age 20-24. Baseball seems to always be the exception. Baseball seems to believe that a player, unless an extreme outlier, needs YEARS of development in order to be considered "ready" to play at the major league level.

Why does someone like Reed Johnson get a contract to play ball at 34 years old when there have got to be 10 times the number of equally talented players who are in their teens or early 20s who could at least fail as well as Reed Johnson can fail at the major league level? Honestly, why does baseball reward the aging catcher who cant hit a lick or outrun a slow ground ball to first with million dollar contracts? Why bring back a 48 or 49 year old Jamie Moyer to a major league contract to throw the ball 65 mph when there are plenty of younger, more talented players out there?

How many young guys never get the chance to prove themselves simply because there is a 30 something Cesar Izturis eating up a roster spot somewhere?

Id rather watch a team full of highly talented young players than a veteran team that sucks. Why does baseball think age matters so much?

Thanks. Just wanted to vent.

Reed Johnson.


And for example, Premier League soccer in England has most of their best players playing by the time they are 20-21. Some as early as 15 or 16. Granted, soccer is a game for young legs, but there is definitely an experience factor as well to play at any high level. Football takes 22-23 year olds and makes stars out of them. Tennis? Teenagers. Basketball? Teenagers and young men.

Baseball? 35 year olds at AAA? Three or four levels of minor league ball? Give me a break. Three or four levels of minor leagues. It boggles the mind.

It's not an aerobic sport but a very specialized one.

Hitting a round ball with round bat is hard.

Some of our guys must have square heads.

goes without saying

Tennis is specialized too. And basketball. What is the difference between shooting 3 pointers and hitting a baseball? Knowing when a curveball is coming? Like there arent coaches and a manager right there giving them signs before EVERY pitch?

I dont buy it.

"What is the difference between shooting 3 pointers and hitting a baseball? "

You have to run to make the three pointer and run on defense.

Baseaball you may have to run 4 times a game.

Also you can practice 3 point shots and be proficient more so then hitting a baseball.

Manute Bol became pretty proficient at hitting three pointers.

Michael Jordan could barely hit AA pitching after hours of BP and batting cages.

The difference is that you and I can hit three point shots. We cannot go to MLB and hit pitching. If you think that a guy off the street would hit .100 in MLB, you're wrong.

It's not just physical skill, it's mental, and it's practice. It's very rare that a guy goes straight to MLB from college (neverless high school) because they have so much learning to do. It's like saying "I got an A in Biology, I must be an open heart surgeon."

if the basket moved side to side and up and down when you had to shoot it, then you might have a comparison.

This is a great question. You are implying, I think, that the average human peaks in fitness at about age 20-24 (or, for me, 33) so why do ball players tend to peak years after this? I guess I would posit that the training, conditioning, and focus required to be a good (and consistent) ball player requires a measure of mental maturity and some knowledge of the game.

I'm 41 and I'm still waiting for my fitness peak.

/didn't start shaving until I was 28

To answer, let me ask you why do professional golfers peak in performance in their thirties? E.G., last year the winners of the four majors averaged 31 years old. The year before it was 37. The year before that 36.

A new Yahoo sports article lists what they consider to be the 10 worst baseball free agent signings. Surprise!!!!! No cubs on their list.

The answer to me seems rather simple. Baseball, like golf, requires a great deal of skill, and requires relatively little stamina. As the player ages, for quite a while, the improvement in his skill more than compensates for the deteriation in his stamina.

The other sports mentioned require both skill and stamina, but as the player ages, the deterioration of his stamina hurts him much more than the improvment of his skill level helps him.

Not sure if that's it... the world record for the marathon (to take one extreme example) was set at the age of 35.

It may have more to do with body recovery time, and maybe ratio of fast-twitch muscle.

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  • J-Hey not finishing with an offensive onslaught.

    If Geoff Blum could be a Playoff hero, there is hope still...

    The E-Man 52 min 30 sec ago view
  • Giants scare me. I think you're wrong about Bumgarner, he would pitch on short rest for Game 2 and then full rest for Game 5. Cueto would go Game 1, then short rest in game 4. Add in some really tough outs in that lineup and I want nothing to do with them. With that rotation they can easily steal a series.

    Cards are a tough matchup. The rivalry evens out their comparable lack of talent. And like someone said, they love HRs, which is how to beat the Cubs. The upside is that I would feel really good about Lester twice against STL.

    John Beasley 1 hour 38 min ago view
  • j.buchanan with a nice start...5ip 2h 1bb 3k, 0r/er

    zobrist with 2HR and a double through 8

    heyward 0-4 :(

    crunch 13 hours 38 min ago view
  • Mark Gonzales @MDGonzales

    Soler likely to return Sunday, Maddon says

    crunch 16 hours 16 min ago view
  • Right now, I'd like to see the Mets first, Giants 2nd.

    I believe that since most of the team from last years' NLCS is on the squad this year, they will really amp their game up even more to kick their ass in payback for 2015.

    The Giants just do not have the depth in years past, and I think all things equal - and at Wrigley - they could handle them.

    I do not want to see the Cards, period. Or their fans, media, or Joe Buck.

    The E-Man 16 hours 35 min ago view
  • I don't want to play Braves in the first round. Any friggin team in the league can win 3 of 5..I hate the first round. Furthermore, I wanted to play the Marlins in 2003 and the Mets over Dodgers last year.

    With that said in reverse order:
    3. Cardinals: It will be devastating to lose in the first round, but even worse to their main rival. It is increased incentive for the Cardinals, especially after last year. Cards would have nothing to lose, Cubs have everything to lose.

    2. Giants: Rotation in the playoffs scare me a bit, but what a lousy team.

    blockhead25 17 hours 18 min ago view
  • 1. Mets--because of the losses in the rotation
    2. Giants--because they're not the team they were BUT they maybe have bullshit even-year magic?
    3. Cardinals--because rivalry and not making the playoffs hurts them more than losing in the NLDS plus getting eliminated by them in the playoffs would make for horrible sports commentary next throughout next season.

    Charlie 19 hours 1 min ago view
  • Who's asking?

    jacos 19 hours 3 min ago view
  • #TeamEntropy

    CLE/DET rained out last night already, possible rain-outs in New York (vs. Baltimore), Boston(vs. Toronto) and Philly(vs. Mets) this weekend too.

    Not only games involving playoff spots that would need to be played, but any that involve home field advantage.

    Rob G. 19 hours 12 min ago view
  • I got the first one! Second one I'm not even sure what even/odd betting is.

    johann 19 hours 59 min ago view
  • any opponent preference for NLDS?

    Mets are down to 1 great pitcher instead of 4. Syndegaard may pitch Sunday which means if Mets win the WC game, he'd be set up for Game 1. There's a chance they clinch a spot by Sunday so he'd pitch the WC and then we'd probably get Colon for Game 1. They've certainly had the hottest bats over the last week and month out of the WC options.

    Rob G. 20 hours 21 min ago view
  • Rob Richardson 1 day 1 hour ago view
  • Can't teach height and thinness

    jacos 1 day 3 hours ago view
  • Hopefully Pirates don't call up A. Lincoln.

    jacos 1 day 12 hours ago view
  • j.buchanan going friday...should something like it.

    crunch 1 day 12 hours ago view
  • Wow. I didn't know they could do that.

    Nice for Willson, not so much for Addy.

    billybucks 1 day 13 hours ago view