TODAY: Johnson has re-signed on a minors deal, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. As Kubatko and others have noted on Twitter, Bourn seems likely to follow suit; neither player’s locker was cleared out despite their respective releases.
MONDAY: The Orioles have announced the releases of outfielder Michael Bourn and infielder Chris Johnson. In Bourn’s case, he utilized his opt-out clause, with the team evidently unwilling to place him on the 40-man roster.
Of course, Bourn has missed most of spring camp with a broken finger, which sapped any chance at making the Opening Day roster. But it had seemed there was a chance he’d remain in the organization while rehabbing to see whether there’d be an opportunity when he returned to full health.
That said, the fit in Baltimore was never that great — at least from an outside perspective. In Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith, the O’s already have a pair of lefty bats that ought to occupy the corners whenever there’s a righty on the mound. And while Bourn could have spelled Adam Jones in center, that wasn’t exactly a burning need. The righty-swinging Craig Gentry could fill that role while also providing a more sensible platoon option in the corners.
It still won’t come as much of a surprise if Bourn resurfaces in the majors before long. Whether he’ll wait to sign until he’s ready to return isn’t clear, but in either event he could represent an intriguing depth option for a variety of organizations. After all, though his bat has steadily declined of late, he finished strong last year with the O’s and is still capable of contributing in the field and with the glove.
As for Johnson, a solid spring (.269/.310/.493) wasn’t enough to move the needle for the O’s, who seem likely to prioritize flexibility and defense with their bench mix. The 32-year-old had been a rather productive major league hitter before signing an extension with the Braves early in the 2014 season. Over the past three campaigns, he has scuffled to a .252/.288/.348 batting line in 1,068 plate appearances.