The Atlanta Braves announced a 3-year deal to extend third baseman Chris Johnson today, which includes a 4th year team option in 2018.
Chris Johnson‘s deal with ATL: $23.5 million over three years, with a $10 million option.
The option for Chris Johnson‘s three-year deal is a team option.
The deal is a bit perplexing, given that Johnson just came off of a BABIP induced career year (where he still was worth under 3 wins) that has left many with doubts about his actual production level that can be expected year in, year out in the future. He isn’t a particularly expensive player, and the Braves still had an additional two years of control. Given his previous performances, he shouldn’t have been a risk to become a high cost player in arbitration, as he doesn’t hit for power, won’t win a Gold Glove, gather many RBIs, and may not compete for a batting title again.
On the flip side, gaining cost certainty as the team looks towards its future move to Cobb County is a very important side of this deal. Also to be considered is the fact that the Braves have no 3B prospects in the minors that look to be future MLB starters, nor is anyone considerably better than Johnson expected to reach free agency within the next 2-3 years. Thoughts of a trade should also be put on hold, because for one teams are reluctant to let go of star third basemen because the position is so hard to fill. Any teams that would welcome a trade will likely demand costs higher than what the Braves can reasonably afford to part with from their weakened farm system.
The Braves are essentially paying Chris Johnson to be a 4-win player over the 2015-7 seasons (his age 30-32 years), and then possibly a 1.5-win player in 2018 if his player option is picked up. Even given the regression that many are expecting from Chris after his 2013 season, this should be relatively achievable for Johnson. In three of his four major league seasons, Johnson has been able to achieve this feat, and is on pace (take that with a grain of salt) to do so again this season. While I wouldn’t have made this deal myself, it’s certainly not a terrible deal financially for the Braves, who have now made five extensions to lock players (three of whom are infielders) down for the opening of the new stadium in 2017.