As we all know, free agency has been going on for a little while now and the arbitration deadline is today (Saturday) at midnight. As a result, a number of players are going to suddenly be shed by their current teams and discarded into the free agent pool. Some players that have already been let go include: Garrett Atkins (Colorado), and Kelly Johnson (Atlanta). Keeping in mind a modest budget, who do you think Toronto should go after, either through trade or free agency? I have my own suggest after the jump.
Atlanta's Kelly Johnson has just been cut by the Braves, and could be an interesting addition to the Jays. He had a solid offensive campaign in both '07 and '08. Injuries, not considered career-damaging, caused some issues during his '09 campaign and he slipped to a line of .224/.303/.389. At his best, though, the 27-year-old infielder displays a willingness to take a walk (13.2 BB% in '07) and he has some pop (.165 ISO in '09). A BABIP of just .249 dragged down his production this past season.
On the plus side of Johnson, he's shown a reduced K-rate each season since '05 (down to 17.8% in '09) and consistently makes at least average contact on pitches that he offers at. He's also a proven fastball hitter, who has shown flashes of an ability to hit breaking balls over the past two seasons. In the middle of his "peak years," Johnson could still possess some upside at the plate.
He's not a great fielder at second base (-10.7 UZR/150 in '08), but that's OK. Toronto has Aaron Hill, a solid fielder, at the keystone. Johnson did post a solid 17.9 UZR/150 in left field during a 79-game stretch in '05. Toronto is currently light on outfielders, and Johnson could be the answer in left, as long as Toronto is OK with Adam Lind at first base or DH and Travis Snider in right field or DH. The club has, unfortunately, committed to Vernon Wells in center field (-18.7 UZR/150) for the foreseeable future, according to the club's new GM Alex Anthopoulos. The club has also recently been linked with outfielder Joey Gathright, but Johnson would certainly be an offensive upgrade.
According to Cot's Contracts, Johnson earned $2.8 million in '09. Given that he's coming off of an injury, perhaps Toronto could offer an incentive-based deal with a starting salary representing a 15% decrease in salary, which would give him a salary around $2.2 million. Toronto would be getting a player who should be worth two to three wins a season, if not more by switching positions. If you take a look at the Bill James' projection on Johnson for 2010, he agrees that Johnson is due for a bounce back season.