On December 3rd, the Braves announced that they signed right-hander Jim Johnson to a 1-year, $1.6 million deal. Johnson will be a reclamation project of sorts for Atlanta, as he struggled mightily at the mound last season. Johnson was a mainstay in the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen for six years, and was the team’s closer from 2012-2013. In 2012, Johnson was an American League All-Star and even received a handful of Cy Young Award votes. He also won the Rolaids Relief Man Award for the American League that season (Kimbrel won the award that year for the National League). However, the Orioles traded Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for financial reasons prior to the 2014 season. Johnson was simply horrible for the A’s, posting a 7.38 ERA in 38 appearances, and was eventually released. He was signed to a minor-league deal and later called up by the Detroit Tigers, but his struggles continued there as well, as evidenced by his 6.92 ERA in Detroit. This is a risky move by the Braves but a move they can afford to make. At $1.6 million, Johnson could end up being a steal if he can start pitching like he did in Baltimore. The Braves also have a plethora of pitching depth at their disposal if Johnson is ineffective out of the bullpen. Johnson still owns a career 3.57 ERA and his closing experience could make him an attractive target around the trade deadline. The right-hander is projected to assume Jordan Walden’s role as a setup man in the bullpen. He cited Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell as the main reason he came to Atlanta. I have the utmost confidence that McDowell can revive Jim Johnson’s arm. If Johnson can turn things around, the Braves may have the best bullpen in baseball this season.
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