Braves reliever Jim Johnson was a somewhat surprising winner of the National League Player of the Week on Monday, and even more surprising was the fact that the veteran right-hander wasn’t traded.
The Braves had plenty of trade discussions Monday but made no deals before the 4 p.m. deadline for non-waiver deals. It was believed that they received interest in relievers Johnson and rookie left-hander Hunter Cervenka and in several position players including outfielders Ender Inciarte and Jeff Francoeur.
But the Braves didn’t get any offers they deemed suitable for players they believe can help them keep a respectable team on the field during the last two months of the season.
“We spoke with multiple teams on multiple players,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “We didn’t find the right type of value that we felt necessitated a move, so we were happy to hold. It’s important to us that we have a strong finish to this season.”
The Braves got some heavy lifting done in the days leading up to this year’s trade deadline, dealing pitchers Lucas Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez to the Rangers last week for power-hitting prospect Travis Demeritte and sending troubled outfielder Hector Olivera to the Padres on Saturday for outfielder Matt Kemp in what amounted to a swap of bad contracts, but a deal that also brought needed right-hander power..
The Braves want to have some good momentum closing out the season, before making plenty of offseason moves – through trades and free agency – to bolster their roster before moving into a new ballpark in 2017.
Also, some players who drew trade interest this week could still be dealt in August and be eligible for other teams’ postseason rosters. A player must pass through waivers before he can be traded during the rest of the season after Aug. 1, or a deal can be worked out with a team claiming a player off waivers.
Johnson, 33, earned the NL Player of the Week award after converting four saves in four scoreless appearances during the last six days of July, allowing one hit and two walks with five strikeouts over four innings in that span.
It was the first Player of the Week award in either league for Johnson, who’s pitched in parts of 11 seasons with five major league teams and was an American League All-Star in 2012 for Baltimore in a 51-save season. He also had 50 saves for the Orioles in 2013.
In this, his second season with the Braves, Johnson is 2-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 39 appearances, with six saves in nine opportunities and 34 strikeouts with 16 walks in 38 1/3 innings. He’s allowed 36 hits and has a 1.357 WHIP that’s slightly higher than his career average.
A year ago, the Braves traded Johnson to the Dodgers on July 30 as part of the three-team, 13-player deal that brought Hector Olivera to the Braves. That was a largely ill-fated trade for the Dodgers and Braves, who just traded the disappointing (and suspended) Olivera to the Padres for Kemp in a swap of bad contracts.
Johnson had 2.25 ERA in 49 appearances for the Braves in 2015 before the trade to the Dodgers, then posted a bloated 10.13 ERA in 21 games for the Dodgers and was left off their postseason roster and later released. He re-signed with the Braves for $2.5 million this past winter and rebounded well from offseason double-hernia surgery.
It’s possible that his struggles after last year’s trade-deadline deal made teams wary of offering much in the way of prospects for the veteran this time around.
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