When a versatile player who hails from Cincinnati Reds country just happens to be on waivers, odds are the Reds are going to scoop them up. Last March, that guy was Cincinnati native Scooter Gennett, a 2B by trade who had been dangled by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Today, it was 2B/LF Micah Johnson, who was put on waivers by the Atlanta Braves prior to being claimed by the Reds, as the club announced.
The knee-jerk thought process here is the easy one, so break that down first. Yes, the Reds have Scooter Gennett as a potential everyday 2B. Yes, Jose Peraza is plenty capable of playing 2B, too, and has spent ample time there in his early Reds career. Yes, Dilson Herrera was who they traded Jay Bruce for, and yes, Dilson’s out of options and will have to make or break it at the big league level. Yes, Zach Vincej has already been called up and had a cup of coffee at 2B. Yes, many of you think Eugenio Suarez could play 2B once 3B uberprospect Nick Senzel gets called up, and yes, Senzel has played 2B often in his career at the college level. Finally, yes, odds are both Shed Long and Alex Blandino will be added to the 40-man roster this winter, too, to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, and both have spent tons of time at 2B in their MiLB careers.
Adding Johnson to that mix makes for a veritable army of middle infielders, which on the surface makes it increasingly less likely the Reds will try to bring back Zack Cozart, who’s now a free agent. On the flip side of that argument, however, is that increasing the middle infield depth would also give the Reds that much more bargaining power in any potential contract negotiations with Cozart as a sign that they’re already prepared to move on.
It also makes you wonder if there may be a glut-clearing trade on the horizon involving one or more of those 2B options.
However, this may be nothing more than a cover move for potential Rule 5 losses as anything, as having Johnson around would help the AAA depth if the likes of Brandon Dixon, Josh VanMeter, or Taylor Sparks got selected. Johnson, 26, is an Indianapolis native and former Indiana University star, but he’s hit just .224/.291/.259 in 131 PA across three seasons, which doesn’t exactly scream that a 40-man roster spot is his for the long haul. In fact, claiming him might just be the first in a series of moves to try to stash him in the system while also bumping him from a roster spot - something the Reds managed recently with D.J. Peterson.
As for Johnson, you might well remember him from the 2015 blockbuster trade that sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox, since Johnson was one of three Chicago farmhands that went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in that three team trade. That, of course, begs the question: did the Reds have interest in Johnson at the time of that trade and are jumping at acquiring him for nil now that they’ve got the chance?