Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reed Johnson A Good Fit for the Indians

Now that the Indians have re-signed Grady Sizemore to be their center fielder the 2012 starting outfield is set with Micheal Brantley in left, Grady Sizemore in center, and Shin-Soo Choo in right.

Right now that 4th outfielder spot appears to belong to Shelly Duncan but the Indians will be best served by acquiring a right handed hitting outfielder who can hit well against left handed pitching and can play all three outfield positions. A player that fits the Indians needs is free agent outfielder Reed Johnson.

Johnson will be 35 years old on December 8th and spent last season as the utility outfielder for the Chicago Cubs. He has played parts of 9 major league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers and posted a career slash line of .283/.341/.413 an OPS of .753. In 2011 with the Cubs he appeared in 111 games and posted a slash line of .309/.348/.467 an OPS of .816 in 266 PA.

In his career he has played 414 games in left field, 191 games in center field, and 253 games in right field.  In 2011 he played 44 games in RF (28 starts), 24 games in center field (16 starts), and 17 games in right field (5 starts).

In his career against left handed pitching Johnson has posted a slash line of .311/.369/.464 and OPS of .832. The last three seasons he has been solid versus left handed pitching. In 2009 he posted a .324/.403/.500 an .903 OPS in 78 PA, in 2010 he posted a .301/.324/.466 an OPS of .790 in 109 PA, and in 2011 he posted a slash line of  .305/.330/.467 an OPS of .797 in 109 PA.

Of course, Johnson has negative components with his game as well. Although in his career he has a 17.1% K rate and a 4.8% walk rate, the last two seasons the K rate has increased while the walks have become nearly non-existent. In 2010 his K rate was 23.3% and his walk rate 2.3% and in 2011 his K rate was 23.7% and his BB rate was 1.9%.  He doesn't supply power as his season high for home runs since 2006 is 6 in 2008. He doesn't provide a lot of speed as he has only stolen 39 bases in his career and has been nabbed 26 times.

Adding Johnson to the outfield mix would afford Manny Acta a right handed bat to start either in center field or left field against left handed pitching. If Acta elected to pinch hit for Brantley or Sizemore late in a game with Shelly Duncan he'd have Johnson available to play the outfield. The Indians would have 4 right handed bats to come off the bench or start against left handed pitching in Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Shelly Duncan, and Reed Johnson.

Although signing Reed Johnson isn't about finding the cheapest option to add to the roster there is a cost component involved. Johnson is coming off a 1-year 900K contract with the Cubs and his 2012 salary demands should not be much more than that. The Indians could solidify their outfield with Brantley, Sizemore, Choo, Duncan, and Johnson and still have remaining budget to seek a 1b via free agency or trade.

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