CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe they have greater flexibility now that veteran outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have been traded to the Braves. When the offseason arrives, Friday's deal should have helped create more financial wiggle room, while also loosening up some prior roster limitations.
In the meantime, the Indians need to determine how to use the player they acquired: Chris Johnson.
"I'm not exactly sure," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I talked to him a little bit ago and I just told him to get here and we'll sit down and talk."
Johnson is scheduled to officially join the Indians on Saturday, and both Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti indicated that he could see time at a variety of positions. Johnson is most experienced as a third baseman, but the Indians have prospect Giovanny Urshela handling that position right now. First base is also an option for Johnson, and the Tribe also plans on testing him in the outfield.
"He's been playing in a part-time role," Antonetti said. "He'll come over here and we'll look for opportunities to play him. He may take some balls in the outfield as well, just to enhance his versatility and give us more options to potentially play him."
In 56 games this season, the 30-year-old Johnson has hit just .235 with a .592 OPS, but he missed most of May due to a hand injury. Against left-handed pitching, Johnson has still managed to hit .323 with a .747 OPS, continuing a career-long trend (.313 average with a .788 OPS). Prior to this year, Johnson turned in a .287/.324/.420 slash line with an average of 12 homers, 30 doubles and 67 RBIs over the 2012-14 seasons.
Johnson is still playing under a three-year, $23.5 million deal that extends through the 2017 season and has a $10 million team option for '18. He is owed a little under $2 million this season, and is scheduled to make $7.5 million in '16 and $9 million in '17. If the Indians do not elect to pick up the option, Johnson's contract includes a $1 million buyout.
"Obviously, I'm excited to start fresh and go somewhere to try to help another team win," Johnson told reporters. "I have no hard feelings about anything that happened [in Atlanta]. I'm grateful for a lot of things that happened here. I played with a lot of good teammates and had a lot of great coaches. My time here was fun, but you've got to move on sometime."