Rosenthal: Rays Sign Kelly Johnson | The Process Report

Rosenthal: Rays Sign Kelly Johnson

Kelly Johnson has signed a one-year deal with the Rays, according to Ken Rosenthal.

At first blush Johnson is an odd fit for the roster since he plays second base and bats left-handed. The Rays have plenty of players with one of those attributes already in tow, but only one with both: Ben Zobrist. It’s fitting then that Zobrist is the engine that will make this dune buggy work. Zobrist’s versatility, both in the field and at the plate, has allowed the Rays to install a triangle platoon, wherein Zobrist shuffles between two defensive spots while the Rays mix and match the other spot depending on the opposing pitcher. Johnson might take Zobrist’s spot as the rover, per Rosenthal, but the integrity of the idea remains the same, and you’re likely to see Johnson and Sean Rodriguez or Ryan Roberts serving in a timeshare.

Johnson arrives with a season and a half of American League East experience (having spent most of the past two seasons with the Blue Jays) as well as a weird career arc, in which he’s gone from contact-orientated second baseman to a whiff-heavy utility player. Along the way Johnson’s splits have reverted from reverse to normal. His numbers against both hands beat Sam Fuld, who many expected to take the lion’s share of reps in left field.

All the swinging and missing Johnson does comes with the reward of power. Johnson typically posts better-than-average Isolated Power scores and over the past three seasons has averaged 21 home runs. He doesn’t just deal in cheap, pull home runs, either: Of those 63 homers, 31 were to left or center field. Johnson’s pop is his best asset and he’ll need it, along with a fair amount of walks, to buoy his offensive numbers in light of striking out more than a quarter of a time.

Expect to see Johnson in the lineup most days, and to see a few more Rays-related moves in the coming hours. They have to clear three spots on the 40-man roster before making the Johnson, Kyle Farnsworth, and Luke Scott signings official.

All stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

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