Johnson Trade A No-Brainer For Dbacks
By Posting More Than 132 Strikeouts In 2011, Kelly Johnson Became A Drag On The Lineup
By Bob Goodwod
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Aug. 24, 2011 — When Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson took over the reigns of the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, it was made very clear, very early on, that they wanted to cut down on strikeouts.
As a result, the big whiff guys on the team got worried. Some of them wouldn’t be coming back. Adam LaRoche was let go, Mark Reynolds was traded and Justin Upton was dangled in the media as a motivational ploy.
The guy who really seemed to escape was Kelly Johnson. He struck out 280 times since he joined the Diamondbacks before the beginning of the 2010 season. In that span, he had 256 hits.
This was no big surprise.
The philosophy of the current staff — which mirrors the thoughts of most smart baseball people — is that while one or two guys with high strikeout totals is OK as long as they supply power, more than two can be deadly. Justin Upton had 98 strikeouts heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Marlins. Chris Young already has 106. Kelly Johnson had 132.
The two pieces the Diamondbacks got in return for Johnson — Aaron Hill and John McDonald — are expected to contribute to the cause while not striking out so much. Hill only struck out 53 times this year in 396 at bats.
He will definitely get a chance to step into the starting role at second base, and if not, Ryan Roberts could move there permanently. Tatman has solidified his place on the roster but is perhaps the best in-house replacement for Johnson if Hill can’t swing a hot bat right away for his new team.
Replacing him at third might be the man who has been doing that already — Sean Burroughs. Also known as ‘the reclamation project,’ Burroughs is hitting about .250 this year — and .273 in his last 10 games, mainly in starts at third base. Geoff Blum could also fill in a the hot corner when he comes off the disabled list in the next couple of weeks. Or maybe a youngster like Matt Davidson might get a shot when rosters expand in September.
But if Hill can recapture the magic from the 2009 season on a winning squad in Arizona, the Snakes might be able to hold off the Giants. Two years ago, Hill got votes for AL MVP when he posted a .829 OPS with 36 home runs and 108 runs batted in. Who knows if he can ever repeat that, but it is definitely worth the risk. Johnson will be a free agent next year and after his .205 average and 132 strikeouts so far in 2011, odds were he wouldn’t be coming back, anyway.
For his part, McDonald can be an adequate fill-in for Willie Bloomquist when needed. The utility man has only had more than 300 bats once in his twelve year career. He is a lifetime .240 hitter but strikes out rarely. He also might be an answer at second base or third if needed. He basically will fill the role of Willie Bloomquist now that Willie Bloomquist is playing Stephen Drew’s role the best he can.
But ultimately this deal will only be a good one if the Dbacks can manage to reach October. And, ultimately, reaching the postseason will probably have more to do with the guys not traded at the end of August.
Good luck, Mr. Johnson.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.