Signing Johnson would represent the type of move that the Braves need to focus on during the upcoming hot stove season. Johnson represents a solid defensive player, capable of playing multiple positions. He also should provide above average offense for the Braves, which they have not gotten recently out of Dan Uggla.
Johnson originally broke into the big leagues with Atlanta in 2005, the team that drafted him 38th overall in the 2000 amateur draft. He played a key role for the 2005 "Baby Braves" team that managed a surprising division title in the face of numerous injuries. He, unfortunately, missed all of the 2006 season after an elbow injury required Tommy John surgery, and he was never quite the same during his time with Atlanta.
He returned for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, spending most of his time as the leadoff hitter and starting second baseman. He struggled to get on base at an acceptable rate, and eventually was demoted to a platoon role in 2008. After steadily declining performance leading to decreased playing time, the Braves released Johnson after the 2009 season, seemingly ending what was a promising start to his career.
Since that outright release, Johnson has seen a career rejuvenation, though it has been characterized by multiple trades. He managed to perform very well as a starting second baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks and, after another trade, the Toronto Blue Jays. During his most recent job with Tampa Bay, Johnson demonstrated his previously unknown defensive versatility, playing acceptable defensive games at first base, third base, and the outfield.
The lack of versatile defensive players ended up haunting the Braves at the end of the 2013 season, where fans were subjected to the offensive poetry of Elliot Johnson at second base and the, let's call it "creative," defense of Evan Gattis in left field.
Johnson would certainly not be a headline-grabbing acquisition for the Braves, who will likely be on the other end of some negative free-agent headlines. They face the likely departure of catcher Brian McCann, who might command a contract approaching $100 million from the Texas Rangers or the New York Yankees.
But signing Johnson is exactly the type of move that the Braves should make in order to fortify what is a very solid roster. The team is built by a conservative front office, operating with minimal financial flexibility. Johnson should be well within the payroll capabilities for the Braves. If the Braves can get Johnson for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years and $10 million, it should be a no-brainer.
The signing of Johnson would also be an additional catalyst for the Braves to try and move Dan Uggla, even if it means eating most of his remaining salary. I'm personally a big Uggla fan and think he is still has the potential to be a useful offensive weapon. But Johnson would be a major defensive upgrade at second base and likely represents more consistent offensive value than Uggla's all-or-nothing contribution.
This type of smart, conservative move has been the hallmark of the Atlanta Braves. Kelly Johnson would be a terrific addition to the 2014 squad.
Patrick Richardson is a longtime follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing t-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Kelly Johnson
- Dan Uggla