The New York Yankees made headlines with their signing of Jacoby Ellsbury. Now, Joel Sherman is reporting the Yankees are close to signing second baseman Kelly Johnson to a one-year deal worth between $2.75 – $3 million deal. Johnson, who turns 32 in February, would optimally be a super utility player, something like what Jayson Nix was for the team before being non-tendered earlier this week. The Yankees envision Johnson as being able to play second, third, and outfield help.
The signing of Johnson doesn’t mean the end of Robinson Cano in pinstripes. However, he could be insurance if Cano does leave the Yankees.
Johnson does have some pop in his left-handed bat. Last season he hit 16 home runs with the Tampa Bay Rays in 116 games and hit a career-high 26 home runs with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He owns a career .253/.335/.427 slash line but over the last two seasons has failed to hit above .235. With the Rays last season he hit .235/.305/.410 and in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays, Johnson slashed just .225/.313/.365 but both seasons he did manage 16 home runs.
For most of his career Johnson has played second base but he does have some experience at third and in the outfield. Johnson could be insurance at third base in case Alex Rodriguez is suspended. He could be insurance if Cano signs elsewhere. He could also just be a super utility player who occasionally fills in all over the diamond.
The Yankees are still very much in the Cano sweepstakes. They are also actively looking for someone to play third in case Rodriguez is out for the year or just an extended period of time.
What the signing of Johnson likely means is that Eduardo Nunez’s time with the team might be nearing an end. It also likely means they are out on Omar Infante. It will be interesting to see what happens now but even if Johnson is here as a bench player he figures to play a prominent role on the 2014 Yankees.
The Yankees’ signing of Johnson is a solid addition, especially if just as a bench player. General Manager Brian Cashman is certainly getting very active in the free agent market and is likely just as active in checking in on trades. While most of the news has centered on Cano, Cashman has somewhat stealthily added quite a bit of pop on the roster and is far from finished as he makes sure he gets his team back into contention after missing the playoffs for the second time since 1996.