Kelly Johnson got a one-year, $3 million contract from the Yankees this week. The contract is a slight raise for the veteran, who made $2.45 million in 2013 for the Rays. Last year, the 31-year old Johnson hit .235/.305/.410 with 16 home runs for the Rays in 407 plate appearances, earning playing time at first base, second base, third base, and left field.
When I saw the news of the Johnson signing, I immediately thought of it as a fantastic insurance option for New York. While Johnson isn't a great defender at any of the positions he plays, he'll get the job done in a pinch. In 2013, the Yankees basked in mediocrity off their bench. Lyle Overbay got nearly all of the playing time at first base due to Mark Teixeira's injury, and he hit .240/.295/.393. The Yankees used 11 different third basemen (including Vernon Wells for an inning), and all of them except Alex Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds (who happens to be one of the worst defensive players in history) were well below average offensively.
Johnson probably won't get much time in the outfield, because the Yankees are loaded after adding Jacoby Ellsbury to their group consisting of Brett Gardner, Ichiro, Alfonso Soriano, and (snicker) Vernon Wells. But I'd wager that one of those five outfielders (likely Wells or Gardner) won't be with the club on Opening Day, and Johnson could sneak some extra playing time in the event of an injury, with some work at DH also possible. But if Robinson Cano doesn't return to New York, Johnson will be thrust into a prime position at second base, and the outfield logjam won't even matter.
Johnson's bat might end up being the real steal here, and could force the Yankees to give him even more playing time. 11 of Johnson's 16 homers were pulled last year, and the lefty will likely end up taking advantage of Yankee Stadium's short porch, much like his former Braves teammate (and now, current Yankees teammate) Brian McCann is expected to. If Johnson gets consistent playing time, either because of an injury, Cano moving away from the Bronx, or Rodriguez's suspension being upheld, $3 million is chump change in this day and age, especially for a team like the Yankees, and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Johnson have a monster season with the Yankees, making Brian Cashman look like a genius in the process.