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March 25, 2008
  
Reed All About It!
by: Dan Scotto on Mar 25, 2008 1:21 AM | Filed under: Articles

The last time I wrote, I spoke of the Mets’ desperate need to find another non-moribund option for their corner outfield woes. I think I have found him.

It’s Reed Johnson, former fourth-outfielder from the Toronto Blue Jays, who was just released the other day in order to make room for Shannon Stewart.

First off, consider what the team’s 25-man roster will look like.

Knowing their history, the Mets will take 12 pitchers up to New York. That leaves 13 spots for hitters. Down the line, here’s where I would guess those spots are going:

- Brian Schneider (C)
- One of Ramon Castro/Raul Casanova (C)
- Carlos Delgado (1B)
- Luis Castillo (2B)
- Ruben Gotay (IF)
- Damion Easley (IF/OF)
- Jose Reyes (SS)
- David Wright (3B)
- Endy Chavez (OF)
- Carlos Beltran (CF)
- Ryan Church (RF)
- Marlon Anderson (PH extraordinaire)
- ??

Disregarding Angel Pagan’s excellent spring, I like Reed Johnson as an option a lot.

So, why Johnson?

1. He’s right-handed.

1. Jose Reyes (S)
2. Luis Castillo (S)
3. David Wright (R)
4. Carlos Beltran (S)
5. Carlos Delgado (L)
6. Ryan Church (L)
7. Endy Chavez (L) / Angel Pagan (S)
8. Brian Schneider (L)
9. PITCHER

Check out the bottom half of that lineup. Essentially, it’s poison, because it’s both not very good, and it’s entirely left-handed. It’s a dead zone, where lefty one-out guys can become lefty-eighth inning guys.

I’m just not sold on Angel Pagan, even with a good spring. And even if it makes more sense to keep him than Endy Chavez, I don’t think Angel Pagan is good enough to justify discarding Endy Chavez’s $3.85 million contract over the next two years. Sunk costs are one thing, but they did just sign that contract two months ago for some reason, and it’s good to live up to your agreements, at least at first. Moreover, you would have to pay Pagan an additional sum to play in Chavez’s stead. It’s not worth doing, given their expected role, without a really good reason.

So the Mets need a right-handed bat. While Reed Johnson is not a superstar, he can hit a bit, particularly against lefties. In over 700 career at bats against lefties, he is a .308/.371/.462 hitter.

Assuming that Alou logs his 300-400 plate appearances this year, Johnson can fit in as a potential platoon partner for Ryan Church down the line. Church should be given every chance to hit lefties, but if he falters, Johnson is a solid option as a replacement.

2. He’s excellent defensively.

Here’s what Reed Johnson did in left field according to zone rating over the past three years, and where he ranked in the majors among qualifiers.

2005: .914 (ranked #1/18)
2006: .887 (ranked #3/20)
2007: .919 (ranked #2/17)

Johnson didn’t log enough innings to make ESPN.com’s leaderboards during the past two seasons, so he is being inserted in those ranks. Zone rating considers him an excellent defender. If you prefer traditional scouting reports, Johnson “covers a lot of territory in the outfield and willingly sacrifices his body, and his arm strength is better than he is sometimes given credit.”

In other words, Johnson can field really well. He’s an asset, there.

What’s more, outfield defense is key for a team with a bunch of flyball pitchers on the starting staff. Check out these ground ball/fly ball ratios from 2007 (the league average is usually around 1.2).

John Maine - 0.87
Oliver Perez - 0.70
Pedro Martinez - 0.73 (0.85 back in 2006)
Johan Santana - 0.92
Orlando Hernandez - 0.79

Reed Johnson’s a perfect fit for that group.

3. He’s a perfect fit on the bench when the team is healthy.

Again, we’re back on this lefty-heavy thing. Marlon Anderson, pinch hitter extraordinaire, is left-handed. The team could use another right-handed bat off the bench to supplement Easley, in that capacity. Again, Reed Johnson fits. In their 2007 annual, Baseball Prospectus commented that his “contact-hitting ability lends itself well to pinch hitting.” In this sense, he can serve as a good foil to Anderson, providing some level of immunity from left-handed relievers.

4. He is no longer employed.

This is important. My list that I created last week posted mainly players that the Mets needed to trade for, and the Mets’ pantry of trade chips is rather barren these days. I strained and came up with Ruben Gotay as the key, but he’s not much of a match for a lot of teams.

Perhaps I’m just straining to find a new Xavier Nady type: a versatile, under-the-radar righty corner OF bat. And perhaps his herniated disc from last season will affect his playing time and his performance. But Johnson’s a versatile, useful player with some distinct and valuable skills. The Mets have some needs. Johnson addresses them. If Johnson is a risk, he’s one well worth taking.

And if four or five teams approach Reed Johnson with a six-figure contract, I doubt that the Mets’ pitch can be topped.

“Mr. Johnson, we want you to start in left field for us on Opening Day. We are often considered the favorite to win the National League, thanks to adding the best pitcher in baseball to a staff that already included the last decade’s best pitcher in baseball. You have logged over 2,300 plate appearances across your career, and you’re now 31 years old. You have also never played in the playoffs. We can change that.”

I think the Mets can sign Reed Johnson, and I think he can help out. I would love to see him batting seventh on March 31st.


12 Responses to “Reed All About It!”

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  1. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on March 25, 2008 at 8:39 am (#633310)

    Here here! At this point, my two main targets, if I’m Omar, is Reed Johnson and Justin Huber. Both players fit the bill (although Huber, reportedly, is not very good defensively) and probably would cost very little to acquire.

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  3. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on March 25, 2008 at 9:58 am (#633381)

    Reed Johnson is not the answer, imho.

    Good defender? Yes. But we have enough good OF defenders.

    Reed has no pop and he strikes out too much.

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  5. Comment posted by Dep on March 25, 2008 at 10:08 am (#633398)

    Reed is solid and better than Pagan. he’s an upgrade imo.

    Nice article, I dig it and agree with it all.

    I dont like the proposed marketing pitch of “we’re going to playoffs, get on board”

    lets say something else ;)

  6. Comment posted by Joe A. on March 25, 2008 at 10:11 am (#633406)

    I wonder if Johnson is healthy. The fact that Toronto chose a washed up Shannon Stewart over Johnson should be a huge red flag. And I’m not sold on Johnson even if he is healthy. I’m sure he would do a decent job while Alou is out, but I would rather someone who can also play 1B.

  7. Comment posted by Danny on March 25, 2008 at 10:30 am (#633437)

    Pagan certainly shouldn’t stand in the way of the Mets acquiring Reed Johnson if they like him. Pagan has options. They can outright him to AAA for greater depth.

    I just hope we don’t carry Brady Clark.

  8. Comment posted by sheadenizen on March 25, 2008 at 12:04 pm (#633532)

    Do it Omar!

  9. Comment posted by Two-By-Four on March 25, 2008 at 12:26 pm (#633567)

    Matt Cerrone over at Metsblog writes:

    In a post to MetsGeek, Dan Scotto explains why the Mets should acquire Johnson.
    …the thing is, dan did not mention that reed is coming off back surgery, which is probably the single biggest reason he is a free agent right now…i guess they don’t list injuries on the stat page

    :)

  10. Comment posted by metsftw on March 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm (#633599)

    cheap shot by cerrone. but he’s shown in the past that he knows next to nothing about sabermetrics, so this shouldn’t be a suprise.

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  12. Comment posted by jpwf13 on March 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm (#633675)

    I think we should try to get Murton from the Cubbies

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  14. Comment posted by Dep on March 25, 2008 at 2:11 pm (#633731)

    haha, who cares what cerrone writes. he’s a tool when it comes to analysis. stick to reporting there ok.

    Cubs signed outfielder Reed Johnson, who had been with the Blue Jays, to a one-year contract.
    The Red Sox, Rays, Rangers and Mets were also interested in Johnson, a career .308/.371/.462 hitter against lefties. The Cubs wll use him as Felix Pie’s platoon partner in center. Since there shouldn’t be much time available for him against righties, he’d be a mediocre $1 pick in NL-only leagues. Matt Murton remains a candidate to be dealt.

  15. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on March 25, 2008 at 9:44 pm (#634216)

    But Reed Johnson is a terrible hitter.

    The Mets have enough terrible hitters already, they don’t need more.

    My two solutions are as follows:

    Hypnotise the Angels into giving up Juan Rivera for something the Mets can give up. Or Reggie Willits. Dude has no power but he can hit for average and run and field, kind of like an outfielding version of Castillo before his knees went down the crapper.

    OR

    Have Spider-Man sell his soul to the devil to get us Milledge back… because then, at least, we only need one more outfielder instead of one-and-a-half more outfielders.

    They are basically the same solutions we’ve always had at our disposal.

  16. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on March 25, 2008 at 9:46 pm (#634218)

    And honestly?

    I don’t think Johnson would’ve necessarily an upgrade over Pagan.

    I’d rather give Pagan a chance, considering his spring.

    He’s early enough in his career to still have a little upside, I dunno.

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