Twins Trade Targets: Kelly Johnson

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 25:  Kelly Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on May 25, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Braves have a number of young, interesting middle infielders, much in the same way the Twins have several young outfielders all battling for time.

Yunel Escobar is the player that would best fit with the Twins, and is probably the best of the bunch, but despite rumors of a falling out with Manager Bobby Cox, he isn't likely to be available.

If a team does pry him away, they'll pay a very high price, higher than the Twins are willing to pay.

When Kelly Johnson went down with wrist tendinitis in early July, he was already beginning to play his way out of a spot, hitting a paltry .214/.286/.359, producing an OPS+ of just 71.

So why should the Twins call down to Atlanta about Johnson?

First, he'll be cheap.

Not only is Johnson slumping, he's been relegated to bench duty by Escobar and the suddenly hot Martin Prado. Johnson is the oldest of the three and while he has value as a bench bat, the Braves can find cheaper options than the arbitration-eligible Johnson.

The Braves aren't looking to give Johnson away, but he would certainly come at a reduced price from what he would have commanded at the beginning of the season.

Second, there's every reason to believe that Johnson's production will pick up.

Wrist injuries have a reputation for sapping power from hitters and Johnson's stole nearly an entire month from him. There's no telling how long it bothered him before he finally went on the DL.

Kevin Slowey had two horrid starts before his wrist injury finally sidelined him, so these things certainly happen.

During his rehab stint at Triple-A Gwinnett, Johnson hit .326 with three home runs in 11 games.

Does this mean he'll hit in the .280s with good power like he did last year? Not necessarily, but it certainly makes that a plausibility.

Johnson's glove work isn't super, but it's passable and before his injury he was posting his best UZR ever. It may be a bit disingenuous to suggest that his bat will move back to his 2006-2007 levels and that his glovework won't also regress to those levels, but it is certainly possible.

There are better options out there, but generally speaking they'll cost more in terms of both money and prospects than the Twins are usually willing to give up. Johnson is under team control for another two seasons and well may provide enough of an offensive boost to the Twins to get them into the playoffs, without costing a (good, young) arm or a leg.