The Cubs Should Really Consider Signing Kelly Johnson

The legend of Mark DeRosa. All Cubs fans know it, all Cubs fans believe it. Hell, even Cleveland and St. Louis became enamored with it briefly in 2009. What is this legend you ask? It's the tale of the everyday journeyman utility guy turned everyday useful player -- the loveable underdog given superstar status. He's aging, but has quality skills and great club presence. Some call him a "grinder." Others call him a leader. Everyone knows him, everyone talks about him, and every year the tales of his value gets bigger and bigger, until Mark DeRosa becomes baseball's Paul Bunyan.

Cubs fans I know still look at the situation retroactively. The Cubs should have never traded him and signed Bradley. Past is past, but now the Cubs are in the market for an outfielder. Some, like our good pal TBO, have suggested the Cubs resign Mark DeRosa (who is asking somewhere in the 3 years, $30 million range). Others, like Hendry, want Marlon Byrd to fill the hole.

Me? I want Mark DeRosa's younger brother, Kelly Johnson. Recently non-tendered by the Braves (DeRosa's former team), Johnson is a 2B/LF with poor infield defense (career -7.4 UZR/15), above average outfield defense (career +17.4 UZR/150 in left over a limited sample size of 648.1 innings), double digit home run power and above average walking abilities (sound familiar?). In 2007, Johnson hit .287/.375/457 (.831 OPS) and was worth +3.2 WAR. In 2008, Johnson hit for a little less power with a triple slash line of .276/.349/.446 (.795 OPS) and was still worth +2.2 WAR. By contast, DeRosa's 2007 OPS was .792 (+2.6 WAR) and in 2008, it was .857 (+3.8 WAR).

Johnson, who was entering his first off-season for arbitration, is 7 years DeRosa's junior and has the superior ISO (career .166 mark versus DeRosa's career .149 mark) and BB% (career 10.9 BB% versus DeRosa's career 8.6% mark). Last year, Johnson had an incredibly disappointing season, posting a .224/.303/.389 (.692) triple slash line. He did this despite cutting the strike out rate for the third straight season (17.8% in 2009), rebounding his walk rate by a half percentage compared to 2008, and increasing his power output compared to the previous season. The problem? A .249 BABIP (.313 xBABIP). Normalize the bad luck and, assuming that all additional hits would have been singles, Johnson's 2009 triple slash line turns into a much prettier .278/.350/.443 (.797 OPS) line. By contrast, Mark DeRosa (a career .767 OPS hitter entering his age 35 season) posted a .752 OPS last season with a .286 BABIP. DeRosa's xBABIP last season? .285.

So while the Cardinals and some other teams like the Yankees talk about bringing the legend of Mark DeRosa to their club, maybe the Cubs should consider his younger, healthier, equally versatile doppleganger who just happens to have a better career ISO and BB%. You could do some much worse in left (you know, like Juan Pierre or Marlon Byrd) for so much more money. A $9 million, three year deal with a $6 million option ($1 million buyout) for 2013 sounds fair and reasonable; it's a low risk less deal (less then 1 WAR expectational value) with high upside.

But then again, Kelly Johnson is not one of "Jim Hendry's guys"...

And now, dear readers, I have a Lingerie Football game to attend. Pics will come tomorrow...

3 comments:

Sexy Rexy said...

The legend of Mark DeRosa will never compare to the legend of Aaron Rowand http://smellslikemascot.blogspot.com/2009/03/battle-for-center-again.html

I didn't read this post but I too am a fan of Kelly Johnson. very ggod underrated player

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

God you're useless. Even I read your dumb football posts.

Sexy Rexy said...

Awww is the wittle baby upset that we don't wead his wittle posts that he thinks everyone should read because he thinks they're the greatest thing since sliced bread?