It’s still way too early to make a definitive judgement on the Chris Johnson trade. However, the early results aren’t exactly looking favorable for the Astros (or for the Diamondbacks for that matter).
The D-Backs traded Johnson to Atlanta, along with Justin Upton, prior to the 2013 season and the former Astro responded with the best season of his career. Johnson finished second in the National League with a .321 batting average, trailing only Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer. Winning the job over Juan Francisco to become the replacement for Braves’ legend Chipper Jones, Johnson banged out 165 hits, including 34 doubles and 12 homers.
Despite some horrendous fielding metrics, the third-baseman contributed enough offensively to post a 2.8 fWAR for the season. That should pay off nicely for Johnson who is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Johnson will see his salary increase from the $2.875 million he made in 2013 to $4.2 million next season.
Longtime readers of this site know that I have always been a believer in CJ. He has consistently been among the league leaders in line drive percentage throughout his career. Sure, he strikes out a lot and he can’t hit the side of a barn with one of his throws, but there is something to be said for a player who hits a ton of line drives.
It’s great to see CJ having such success. But what about the players the Astros obtained in the trade? On July 29, 2012 the Astros sent Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of outfield prospects, Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering.
Upon his arrival in the Astros system, Krauss continued to display the power and on-base skills that he had showcased throughout his minor league career. Krauss would make his big league debut in June of 2013 but would not enjoy the same levels of prosperity. At this point the jury is still out on the broad-shouldered 26-year old — but it appears as though he may only be a platoon player. A left-handed hitter, only 15 of his 146 big league plate appearances came against lefties.
Borchering was a first round pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2009 draft. The switch-hitter had excellent power numbers in the lower levels of Arizona’s farm system but has struggled to produce since being traded. Borchering was drafted out of high school and just turned 23 earlier this week. Even though he is still young, Borchering is beginning to fall behind a bit in the area of age versus competition. He will need to advance a couple of levels this year to catch up.
You never know how a trade will turn out in the long run. And, like I said, this one still has plenty of time to turn around. Getting two seemingly legitimate prospects for one “marginal” player seemed like a good deal at the time — and it still could be. Arizona sending Johnson AND Upton to Atlanta may have been the worst move of all.