[caption id="" align="alignright" width="266" caption="Uploaded on June 12, 2009 by Keith Allison"][/caption]Late on Friday, David O'Brien wrote that he suspected Martin Prado would continue to be the Braves' second baseman in 2010, making it unlikely that Kelly Johnson would be able to earn a starting job. Bobby Cox apparently "mentioned possibly moving Prado to right field and not 'giving up' on second baseman Kelly Johnson," but O'Brien doesn't put much stock in that, nor do I. I think Prado remains our 2B.
O'Brien then said that Kelly Johnson's salary could climb from $2.8 million to $3.3 million in arbitration, which is a lot. (Ryan Church entered the year with almost the exact same contract and almost the exact same amount of service time, so it's likely that his salary could see a similar bump.) I like Church, and he deserves that kind of contract much more than Garret Anderson did, but he's still probably not worth that money to the Braves -- nor, frankly, is Kelly Johnson.
So the question becomes: should the Braves hang onto Kelly and his $3 million contract, cut him loose, or try to trade him? Martin Gandy at Talking Chop wants the Braves to hang onto Kelly in the hopes that his long-awaited offensive breakout will finally come, though he suspects they'll DFA him. Obviously, if he has to go, it would be best if they could get something in return, and considering how penny-pinched we were last offseason, $3 million could be decisive in whether the Braves can finally get the thumper they've always said they want.
Then again, at almost this exact time last year, I wrote this: "Through his first three seasons, he's one of the best offensive second basemen ever... Before we trade him, we should keep in mind exactly how valuable he's been, and just how valuable he's likely to be over the next few years." One awful half-season later, during which he was sent back to the minors in search of his swing and gotten permanently Wally Pipped from the Braves lineup, and it's hard to imagine how the Braves could continue to find a place for Kelly in their lineup. So Martin may be right -- an offensive breakout may still be around the corner. I'm just not sure the Braves can afford to keep waiting, when every million counts. There are plenty of teams who could use a second baseman with his potential.
What do you think? Time to cut bait, or pay the man and hope he finally becomes the hitter we always thought he could be?