Today, we learned from the official Braves’ Twitter account that the Atlanta Braves decided to decline the option on Reed Johnson, and instead decided to cut him a check for a mere $150,000.00, and release him to free agency. If the Braves had decided to to accept the option on Johnson, it would have cost the Braves $1.6 million, which is not too much money, but apparently was more than the organization wanted to spend to keep Reed.
Even with declining the option on Johnson, we may not have seen the last of him. Just a few hours ago, David O’Brien tweeted the following regarding the departing Johnson:
#Braves Wren said declining option on Reed Johnson doesn’t preclude them from possibly talking to him again later about returning.
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) November 4, 2013
That much is obvious, and while it’s certainly true that we could see Johnson back in a Braves’ uniform at some point down the road, I don’t expect it. Why? Because Reed Johnson, even at 37 years old, is a seasoned and talented outfielder, a reliable bench player, and a solid bench bat. Despite his increasing age, Reed Johnson is in good shape physically (aside from his aching, but mostly healed Achilles, which should completely resolve itself in the off-season), and there will be a team that will snatch him up for depth off the bench. Reed may well be one of those players, among more than I can count, that left the Braves and then went on to put up good numbers with another organization.
Johnson’s playing time this past season was greatly reduced, due to a few injuries yes, but mostly because of the arrival in Atlanta of the Upton brothers, and the Braves’ desire to have Evan Gattis play as much as possible, even if considerably wobbly at doing so in left field. As a result of all that, Johnson wasn’t able to put up the numbers we might normally expect from him. This season, in just 136 plate appearances, Reed put up a line of just .244/.311/.341, very similar to his 2012 season where he put up a line of .270/.305/.320 in just 105 plate appearances.
Even with Johnson’s decline in numbers, somewhat because of his reduction in playing time of course, Reed was still a valued bench player with some positives the Braves are likely to miss. His ability to hit lefties was one of those positives. Even with his overall decline in numbers, Reed still managed to hit .291 against lefties (.288 against lefty starters), and his numbers also show that when he’s patient and gets ahead of a pitcher, he’s a difficult out! Couple that together with his ability to play well in all outfield positions, and the Braves may have lost a quality player off the bench.
The Braves will do fine with Joey Terdoslavich, who is likely the guy to fill Reed’s vacated role, but there’s a great deal to said for the experience alone of a player like Reed Johnson. I’m curious how other fans feel about losing Reed Johnson. Take our poll below, and feel free to share your comments as well.