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Rays’ signing of Kelly Johnson adds to incredible depth

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays signed former Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson to a one-year deal. The contract terms are currently unknown, but it's likely for no more than $3 million. Johnson's addition to the Rays roster will push Ben Zobrist to right field as the every day starter, but Zobrist will also get some playing time at second base, where he's tradtionally been an elite defender.

Johnson's signing adds even more depth to a Rays roster that is loaded with talent up the middle. In addition to Johnson and Zobrist, the Rays also have newly-acquired Yunel Escobar at shortstop (ironically, a double play partner of Johnson's in both Atlanta and Toronto), and utility players Eliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Ryan Roberts, and Reid Brignac, all of whom can play multiple positions across the diamond. Perhaps the best part of this for the Rays is that all of these players (aside from the three starters: Zobrist, Escobar, and Kelly Johnson) are cheap, with Roberts making the most money in 2013 at $2.95 million.

With the signing of Kelly Johnson still pending, and Tampa Bay's 40-man roster full, the Rays will need to make a move to create a roster spot for their new second baseman. While Tampa Bay does have five catchers on their 40-man, they could get interest in one of their utility options from a team looking to fill out a bench spot. Rodriguez would probably get the most interest of the bunch after putting together two-win seasons in both 2010 and 2011, but he's probably the guy the Rays want to keep most out of their surplus of options right now.

What this trade also does is pretty much seals the deal that Wil Myers will start the year in AAA for Tampa Bay. With Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Joyce starting in the outfield and Johnson starting at second base, the Rays have a solid enough starting core and aren't desperate enough to push Myers to the majors and start his arbitration clock before it's necessary for them to. However, once June rolls along and if the Rays are struggling offensively or someone is injured, it would make more sense for them to pull the trigger on calling Myers up. 

Tampa Bay is in a better position than they were before signing Johnson. Kelly Johnson isn't an elite hitter — after all, he hit just .225/.313/.365 last season in Toronto — but he still has above average pop and speed and can benefit the team. If worse comes to worse and he struggles, the team can move Zobrist back to second and call Myers up. It's a low risk, high reward signing from Tampa Bay, and has more of a chance of helping them than hurting them.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.

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