Earlier today, Nick Cafardo speculated that Arizona could have to consider trading someone like Kelly Johnson in order to boost its dreadful bullpen. The D'Backs entered today dead last in baseball with a 7.42 bullpen ERA, and the six earned runs it surrendered aren't helping.
Johnson was signed to a one-year, $2.35MM deal this offseason after being non-tendered by the Braves. Apparently, the desert air has rejuvenated the once-productive second baseman. If chicks really do dig the long ball, it's safe to say Johnson is Arizona's newest heartthrob. He entered today hitting .279/.361/.628, having already crushed 11 round-trippers on the season. Even more enticing than his affordable salary and big-time production may be that Johnson has one year of arbitration left, meaning any new team could control him for the 2011 campaign as well.
The Diamondbacks entered today 7.5 games out of first, and after Dan Haren's pummeling at the hands of the Braves, they find themselves down 13-1 as I write this post. Simply put, things aren't pretty in Arizona this season. If they do look to move Johnson, let's speculate as to where he could end up:
- Detroit: The Tigers have the lowest bullpen ERA of any team in baseball, thanks to their signing of Jose Valverde and the resurgence of Joel Zumaya. They also just demoted second base prospect Scott Sizemore back to Triple-A after Sizemore posted a line of .206/.297/.289 through his first 115 plate appearances. An upgrade at second base would be a huge boost to the TIgers, who sit just one game back of the Twins in the AL Central.
- San Diego: If the two don't mind dealing within their own division, there's a match between the needs. The Padres are in first place in the NL West, but have mustered just a .663 OPS from their second basemen so far this offseason. David Eckstein has seen most of the time there, but could be shifted to shortstop as an upgrade over Everth Cabrera's .211/.273/.282 line this season or simply to a utility role. With just 4.16 runs per game and a mere 27 home runs on the season, an offensive upgrade would help San Diego, who also happens to own a sparkling 2.70 bullpen ERA.
- St. Louis: The Cardinals can be none too pleased with Skip Schumaker's .589 OPS on the season. His .261 BABIP and increased line drive rate likely point to bad luck as the source more than anything else, but if his numbers can't correct themselves, the Cardinals could consider dipping into a relief corps that's produced a 2.85 ERA to help them keep up with the Reds in the NL Central.
What other destinations would make sense for the Arizona masher, and what's a reasonable price to pay for 1.5 years of the resurgent second-bagger? Should clubs be wary of his new hitting-friendly environment, or is Johnson's warpath so far legitimate? Keep in mind that the Diamondbacks could simply elect to hang onto Johnson, but it's hard to argue that now is a good time to sell high.