Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Kelly Johnson


The Washington Nationals added their new second baseman on Christmas Eve when they agreed to sign former Met Daniel Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. However, the one defensive flaw in Murphy’s game has been his defense. With Danny Espinosa sliding over to shortstop, the Nationals could still use a backup at that position.

While they do have a player in the minors in Wilmer Difo who can fill in at that spot, one veteran name to consider is Kelly Johnson, who has been linked to the Nationals this winter. Last season, Johnson had a slash line of .265/.314/.435 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI’s for the Braves and Mets.

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Johnson has been with four teams the last two seasons (Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Mets). He started his 2015 season with the Braves before being dealt along with Juan Uribe to New York on July 24. With the eventual National League champions, he hit .250 with five home runs and 13 RBI’s and had a .304 on-base percentage in 49 games. Johnson and Uribe gave New York much needed depth in the infield.

Johnson, who will turn 34 in February, was a boost to the Mets because of his ability to play different positions. In those 49 games with New York, he played games at second, first base, third base, shortstop, left field, and right field. However, he has spent the bulk of his ten-year career as a second baseman.

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Even though Johnson made just two errors at second for the Mets, his defensive runs saved have gone down since 2012. According to Fangraphs, after having five runs saved with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, the former first round pick of the Braves in 2005 had -1 run saved with Atlanta and New York this past season. However, that -1 is still better than the -6 runs saved Murphy had in 2015 or any season that Murphy has had in his entire career. His best defensive runs saved total was -2 in his rookie season (2011).

Last offseason, the Braves signed Johnson to a minor league deal. I don’t know if Johnson would sign another deal like that this year, but if the Nats can get him on a one-year deal, it would allow Dusty Baker to have a dependable utility man on the bench and another left-handed bat.

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I did like the signing of Daniel Murphy by Washington, but with Murphy’s defensive struggles and Espinosa moving to shortstop till Trea Turner is called up, the Nats do need another dependable glove late in the game and Johnson can be that guy.