Reed Johnson has been around for a few years to say the least. Major League Baseball players that were born before the year 1980 are quickly becoming a rarity. Perhaps what’s more rare about Johnson is what he brings to a team. The Atlanta Braves do not have the large number of outfield vacancies they seemed to have going into the middle of the off-season. The trade for Justin Upton sealed the starting outfield up nice and tight, leaving room for only one or two backups. What does Johnson bring to the team that could make him more valuable than a bench slugger?
First things first, Johnson is a good hitter. He is a veteran with lots of experience facing pitches in all sorts of situations. He is accustomed to filling in instead of starting. Basically, when it comes to a backup outfielder coming off of the bench, Johnson has done that for years now. Experience in the job means something. A young guy that has only started might find the transition to bench player difficult. That is one huge area that is not a concern for Johnson.
Probably the most common thing to hear about Johnson from his current and former teammates is that he is one of the guys that really keep the clubhouse loose. He can stir things up and poke fun here and there; whatever it takes to keep guys laughing and enjoying their jobs more. It might not sound like much because you can’t put a stat on it or place a trophy around what he does but that doesn’t make it unimportant.
If he couldn’t hit at all then you might not consider the clubhouse role he can play, or you might want him on as a young coaching assistant. The fact that he can hit and keeps the clubhouse loose could make him a valuable addition to a team that Tim Hudson is also a cutup on. Between the two of them, Johnson and Hudson can probably go a long way towards keeping guys loose and smiling in the clubhouse. It will make the transition of the newer personalities easier. For that reason, the Braves need Reed Johnson a lot more than the numbers would suggest.