John Hart’s phone bill in the next couple of weeks might as well be a receipt from a night to forget in Las Vegas.
As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Braves’ president of baseball operations will field calls from teams that want a relatively inexpensive four-tool outfielder who is flashing some power in Cameron Maybin. Or perhaps a hot-hitting utility player in Kelly Johnson — who is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason.
But there’s a good chance absolutely nothing happens.
“I think people look at this as this is going to be some magic time where you’re all of a sudden going to change the dynamic of a franchise …” Hart said Friday. “We certainly have a lot of players people are going to want to talk about and they’re going to be desirable, but for us, again, if we can’t get something that’s going to fit our plan for what we want, we won’t make a move.
“And that goes for really anybody on this ballclub. I mean, obviously guys that are on the last years of deals and you assume that those guys might be eventually somewhere else. But unless the deal makes sense to us, we’re going to try to get this club every chance to compete every night, which they’ve done for us.”
Hart and manager Fredi Gonzalez are on the same page.
“I think from now on it’s baseball deals,” Gonzalez said. “If somebody wants to come knocking at the door, and if they make an offer for one of our big players, I think we’ve got to listen to it. But I think we’ve got a nice little thing going, and we’ll see what happens.”
Johnson, who’s played five positions this season, will attract contenders looking for a versatile backup who’s an asset at the plate. He’s hitting .282 with nine homers and 34 RBIs, and he’s hitting .351 with a 1.050 OPS in July.
He’s already been traded three times in his career and said it’s a surprise every time.
“You’re just a little curious. I guess it’s hard to not want to know things,” he said. “As a player you’re the last guy to know. … There’s lots of different ways to look at all of it. Do you want to get traded to a contender to get a chance to play in the World Series or the playoffs? That’s awesome. Are you comfortable where you’re at? Happy where you’re at? Like where you’re at? For me of course I am. I live here and it’s familiar and I love it. It just depends on how you look at it.”
A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Johnson are also impending free agents who’ll attract some offers. Contenders who want an above-average No. 2 catcher will look at Pierzynski, who’s hitting .286 with six homers and 30 RBIs.
“I’m a Brave, and I hope to be a Brave for a long time,” Pierzynski said. “And you just go from there. … Obviously as an older guy you want to win now. But I also understand what I got into when I signed here as a free agent and we’ve done a good job.”
Johnson, who hasn’t allowed a run in his past 17 appearances, will draw calls from contenders seeking a set-up man with lots of experience at the back end of the bullpen.
“My thing is, if I’m ever running a team, is (the trade) going to make my team better,” Johnson said. “I think if you can answer yes to that question, then you always make that deal. I think if you’re just trading a guy to trade a guy, that makes no sense. But I think if a manager in that situation really thinks that the return is valued, then I totally understand why they’re doing it.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.