Outfielder Jeff Francoeur and right-hander Jim Johnson were both placed on revocable trade waivers by the Braves this week, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, though their placements had very different outcomes. Francoeur cleared waivers and is now free to be traded to any team, whereas Johnson was claimed off waivers and ultimately pulled back after a trade could not be worked out.
[Related: How August Trades work]
Johnson, 33, was somewhat surprisingly not traded prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline, and he’ll now remain in Atlanta for the remainder of the year, it seems. (The Braves could put him back on waivers, but the waivers would no longer be revocable, and an affordable right-hander with Johnson’s results certainly wouldn’t clear.) While the former Orioles closer struggled following a 2015 trade to the Dodgers and got off to a rough start in 2016 after re-signing in Atlanta, he’s been nothing short of excellent since his activation from the disabled list in early June. Since that time, Johnson has a 1.57 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 54.7 percent ground-ball rate in 28 2/3 innings. Considering his $2.5MM salary and those recent results, it’s hardly surprising that he drew interest (or, at least, was claimed by one contender to block others from adding him). Heyman doesn’t specify which club placed the claim on Johnson, but it’s worth noting that the Mets were said to have claimed a reliever earlier this week, and given the lack of news since the reporting of that claim, no deal was reached.
While there’s a school of thought that the Braves should’ve been willing to move Johnson for virtually anything due to his status as an impending free agent, Atlanta clearly didn’t feel it received anything of long-term value before or after the non-waiver trade deadline. And, there’s some benefit to Johnson serving as a steadying force as the team’s interim closer with Arodys Vizcaino on the shelf while providing some leadership for younger arms in the ’pen. (It’s also possible that the Braves could explore an extension for Johnson, as he’s performed well in each of the last two seasons while wearing their uniform.)
That line of thinking — valuing veteran leadership over fringe prospects or mild salary relief — was reportedly a large factor in the Braves’ decision not to trade Francoeur prior to the non-waiver deadline. Atlanta was said to only be willing to move Francoeur for a legitimate return. While that doesn’t indicate that the Braves were demanding a top 10 type of prospect from the systems of rival clubs, it does suggest that they weren’t willing to move him for what would amount to a warm body that would simply fill a minor league roster spot. The same thinking almost certainly applied to Johnson in this instance.
Francoeur could yet draw some interest from other teams, though a trade doesn’t seem overly likely based on Atlanta’s reported asking price. The 32-year-old has a lackluster .247/.287/.387 batting line on the season overall, though his .280/.320/.432 slash against left-handed pitching could be a genuine asset on a contending club’s bench down the stretch.