Dodgers finalize Johnson deal
The Dodgers finalized their agreement with Reed Johnson on Monday, signing him to a one-year, $800,000 contract after the free-agent outfielder passed a physical examination.
Johnson, 33, a Riverside native and Temecula Valley High School graduate, figures to get plenty of playing time. He has the ability to play all three outfield spots, and aging left fielder Manny Ramirez probably will need a day off once a week or so. The right-handed-hitting Johnson also can occasionally spell lefty-hitting right fielder Andre Ethier, who probably will sit against certain left-handed pitchers, and center fielder Matt Kemp.
Johnson's primary responsibility, though, will be to pinch hit and enter games as a late-inning defensive replacement. He likely will be the only pure outfielder on the Dodgers' bench. Because the club presently lacks a left-handed pinch hitter, veteran Doug Mientkiewicz, a corner infielder who is coming to spring training as a non-roster invitee, is a strong bet to make the club. Assuming the Dodgers go with a 12-man pitching staff, that wouldn't leave a spot for a fifth outfielder, meaning both Jason Repko and Xavier Paul probably can count on beginning the season at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Jamey Carroll, who was signed earlier this winter as a utility infielder, has appeared in 16 games in the outfield during his career (all but one of them in either left or right), so the Dodgers would be covered in the event of an emergency until they could promote an outfielder from the minors.
Johnson has seven years in the majors, the past two as a backup outfielder with the Chicago Cubs, where he batted .255 with a .330 on-base percentage last season. He has little power, having never hit more than 12 homers in a season even as an everyday player, and he has a career slugging percentage of just .411. But he is a contact hitter, striking out only once every 6.9 plate appearances last year.
Johnson spent his first five seasons as a regular starter with Toronto.Tony Jackson covers baseball for ESPNLosAngeles.com.