Angels Acquire Jim Johnson, International Pool Space from Braves

The Los Angeles Angels have acquired veteran relief pitcher Jim Johnson, along with international pool space, from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for left-handed pitcher Justin Kelly.

Johnson, who is a 12-year big league veteran, had a down year in 2017, posting a 5.56 ERA in 56.2 innings. While Johnson posted a solid 23.8 percent strikeout rate, his walk rate ballooned to a 9.8 percent rate, he had a career worst 1.27 HR/9 rate and also saw his ground ball rate drop under 50 percent for the first time in his career. Johnson sacrificed control of the zone (career-low 42.1 percent zone rate) for more strikeouts (career-low 78.1 percent contact rate) but it didn’t help in regards to run prevention. Johnson is owed $4.5 million in 2018.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that the Angels also acquired international pool space, $1.21 million to be exact. The Angels have been active in this current international signing period, signing two premier talents out of the Bahamas in Trent Deveaux and D’Shawn Knowles. These signings left the Angels with roughly 300,000 dollars left in their spending pool.

With Shohei Ohtani expected to be posted this week, it’s probably fair to say the Angels are looking for a little more cash to get serious in these Ohtani negotiations. While the Angels aren’t considered a front-runner for the Japanese superstar, they’re in a big enough market and have some attractions (Mike Trout says hi) that could propel them into the mix. The Angels could also grab one of the recently released Braves prospects, such as Kevin Maitan. Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register says the Angels are likely using this money to make an Othani run.

Atlanta, meanwhile, receives Justin Kelly, a left-handed pitcher who enjoyed a solid season in 2017, posting a 3.53 ERA in 63.2 innings across numerous levels. The 24-year-old also had a solid 1.97 strikeout/walk ratio, showcasing some command of his stuff. He doesn’t project as an impact player at the highest level but he’s moved into the upper minors and could be a relief option in 2018 for Atlanta.

Given Atlanta’s recent punishments for shady work in the international market, the club may not be in a position to acquire much talent in this market. It appears the Braves could be looking to acquire any talent they can for the remaining international spending money they possess.

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