Kelly Johnson will be a free agent at the end of the season. When he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, many speculated that he was brought to Toronto for a change of scenery and to perhaps increase the value of compensation if he leaves in free agency this offseason. It was also well known that both Johnny Mac, and Aaron Hill, who were traded for KJ, would both very much like to return to the Jays for 2012.
However, Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made it clear that he has been a fan of Johnson's for some time. I fall into the same camp as Anthopoulos since Johnson helped me win my competitive keeper fantasy league last season, and his hot-cold streaks this year has helped me return to the finals.
Johnson is a very streaky hitter. He will finish the year with roughly a 20-20 campaign. For someone like Johnson, who everyone would agree is having a poor offensive year, can you really complain with 20-20 season, 60 BB and 75-plus runs as the worst possible outcome? From a guy who will usually bat in the seventh spot (with the occasional No. 2 spot in the order) what else would you realistically want?
Personally, I think Johnson has done enough to warrant a new contract from the Blue Jays. One of the best things about Johnson is that he can manufacture his own numbers. What I mean is that he hits home runs, lots of doubles and triples and steals a decent number of bags.
There are many players in the league that need help to produce numbers and unless they are hitting at the top of the order they won't produce but Johnson has shown that even at the bottom he can produce (much more than Aaron Hill did earlier this season).
Yes, Johnson is only hitting .244; yes, he has 26 Ks in 24 games. I am not pretending those aren't the best statistics. But the real question is, from your seventh batter, you would rather hit and miss than have a penchant for hitting singles.
With a low average and high K rate, Johnson still averages 0.5 BB per game and has 13 runs in 24 games (which would translate to 88 runs over a season). In the 24 games, he already has two triples which is impressive. From the 7th spot in the order, I would take one or two 0-for-4, 3 K games if I also received a couple 2-for-4 with a homer and a double games as well. Getting 20-20 production with a high walk and XBH rate from your seventh hitter is just gravy.
The kicker on whether or not Johnson is re-signed comes down to how well Hill is playing in Arizona. Since arriving in Arizona, Hill has been mashing the ball. He is currently batting .297 with 2 HR, 12 RBI and nine doubles in 25 games. Hill has been batting second in their lineup and has found his stroke.
No one came close to seeing this type of production out of Hill this season in Toronto. Will the Diamondbacks re-sign him? It would appear that Hill has done everything in his power to make them do so. With the playoffs in sight, his production might force the Diamondbacks to re-sign him.
With numbers like this and a weak second-base crop ready to hit the market, Hill's stock has soared. Will he return to the Blue Jays? Possibly. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Johnny Mac will. But if it was up to me, I would rather have Johnson batting seventh for my squad and J.P. Arencibia hitting eighth. Name me another solid team that can count on 50 home runs from their seventh and eighth hitters. I will take that any day!