The trade between Miami and Toronto yesterday is a defining moment. It will define Rogers as an owner. It will define Alex Anthopoulos as a manager. It is consistent with how Jeffrey Loria was already defined. It has also defined those of us who write about the Jays. Very little of what I wrote or speculated about is relevant anymore, even though it was fun. The trade has now defined how I perceive the Toronto Blue Jays and their remaining needs because, despite the influx of high-quality players, Toronto still has some needs.
Kelly Johnson can meet one of those needs. Some of you may be snickering already and asking yourself, “after the season he just had, are you nuts?” You’re right to ask, so I’ll try to explain myself.
KJ had a bad year at the plate and a bad year in the field. He’s 31 years old and, like the rest of us, he’s not getting any younger. He’s not very athletic, but he’s not very ‘steady’ either. ‘Mercurial’ may describe him best. Across the board, KJ’s defense suffered. His RngR and UZR were the worst of his career, and his DPR was poor too. His UZR/150 was the worst mark of his career by a country mile. Offensively, the story was similar. His numbers with ARI are among the best of his career. Conversely, his numbers last season are among the worst of his career. 2009 is the only season when he was as poor offensively as he was in 2012, but he missed 56 games that year. He’s also inconsistent: great one year with the glove, but average offensively; great with the stick the next year, but subpar with the glove. And so it goes throughout his career.
I’m not making much of a case, am I? But here are three reasons why I believe that signing him would be a good move. First, there aren’t many quality middle infielders available. He may be the best of the bunch, and we saw him play. Perhaps someone like Skip Schumaker could be acquired in a trade, but we’ll chase that rabbit another day.
Second, his 2012 numbers were so far below his career marks that he’s a strong candidate for a pay cut. I’m not sure how concerned the Jays are about payroll commitments right now, but perhaps Kelly could be signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal for $4.5MM plus an option. It’s reasonable, based on his performance.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, his 2012 numbers were so far below his career marks that he’s a strong candidate to bounce back. The addition of Jose Reyes and a LF/1B means he won’t be expected to offer more than he’s capable of contributing. 2007 and 2010 were the best years of his career, and in both cases there were four other players who carried a greater load offensively.
Re-signing Kelly Johnson makes a lot more sense after the trade than it did before the trade. The bench would be strong, with new acquisitions/recent signings Rajai Davis, Maicer Izturis, and Emilio Bonifacio. The problem is that with so few IF available, he may get an unreasonable offer elsewhere. If TOR acts quickly and Kelly Johnson plays to his capabilities in 2013, the Blue Jays line-up would be very potent indeed.