The Atlanta Braves traded away former All-Star closer Jim Johnson, as well as additional international pool space, to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Justin Kelly. According to Buster Olney, the deal gave $1.21 million in international funds to the Angels.
— Angels (@Angels) November 30, 2017
Jim Johnson Traded to the Los Angeles Angels
Johnson, 34, put together an All-Star season in 2012, during his age-30 season with the Baltimore Orioles. That year, he finished with a 2.49 ERA and 51 saves in 68.2 innings across 71 games. Johnson landed an All-Star appearance, and finished 7th in Cy Young contention and 14th in MVP voting.
Johnson played 61 games for the Braves last season. He tossed 56.2 innings in those games, finishing the year with a 5.56 ERA and only 22 saves. Johnson’s nine blown saves in thirty one opportunities forced him out of the closer role. In addition to his high ERA and blown saves, Johnson’s ground ball percentage fell from a career high 62.3%, to a low 42.1%. Although Johnson struggled this past year, he did end 2017 with a 9.7 K/9 over a 4 BB/9. Atlanta signed Johnson to a two-year, $10 MM contract prior to the start of the 2017 season, but the Braves were not happy with the 34-year-old’s performance, and decided to move him to the Angels.
The international pool space the Angels will be acquiring with Jim Johnson has not yet been specified; the funds could help the Angels make a pitch for international free agent Shohei Otani.
The Braves will be receiving left-handed pitching prospect Justin Kelly. The 25-year-old went to college at UC Santa Barbara. He was drafted by the Angels in the 33rd round of the 2016 June Amateur Draft. Kelly has spent most of his career in Class-A Midwest League. In 29.2 innings, Kelly posted a 2.43 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and a 44.4 ground ball percentage. Kelly has seen time in High-A and Triple-A, but did not find success at either level.
Kelly finished this season with a 3.53 ERA, 8.1 K/9, and 4.1 BB/9 in 63.2 innings. He’s also seen some time in the bullpen, having made nineteen relief appearances. Kelly is not ranked among the Angels top 30 prospects, and being a part of a salary dump for the Braves could have Kelly see some time in the bullpen for Atlanta.