MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Johnson gives Mets versatility, depth

Johnson gives Mets versatility, depth

MILWAUKEE -- Kelly Johnson's value cannot be measured in numbers alone, although two numbers will help.

He packs four gloves. He can play six positions.

This is the leading edge of why the New York Mets have traded for Johnson, for the second straight season. In 2015, he came with Juan Uribe from the Atlanta Braves in late July. The Mets subsequently won the National League pennant. Johnson became a free agent and signed [again] with the Braves. There were other reasons beyond these acquisitions for the Mets' success, but the associations are all positive for both the Mets and Johnson.

This season the Mets have once again traded with the Braves for Johnson, the Mets giving up a fringe pitching prospect in return. Johnson will give the Mets versatility, depth and all manner of positive vibes, not necessarily in that order.

Johnson's return to the playing field in a Mets uniform was not an unmixed blessing Friday night. But it did come with a happy ending attached, as the Mets beat the Brewers, 2-1, in 11 innings at Miller Park.

Johnson had a double, a single and an intentional walk in five plate appearances, and had a home run to center taken away on a leaping grab at the wall by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a former Met. But after the double, Johnson was caught off base on a grounder to short that turned into a double play.

Johnson's intentional walk loaded the bases in the 11th. With one out, what followed was one of the most bizarre plays of the season. Milwaukee shortstop Jonathan Villar dropped a liner hit by Matt Reynolds, then flipped the ball to second baseman Scooter Gennett for a force on Johnson. Then Johnson ran back toward first base, which was strange. But Gennett pursued him, which was stranger, because Johnson was already out at second. But it worked out for the Mets because, while this was occurring, Asdrubal Cabrera was scoring from third with what turned out to be the winning run.

Must C: Mets take lead in 11th

"Kelly Johnson is going to have a baserunning clinic," Mets manager Terry Collins said with a laugh.

On the other hand, Johnson, playing at second Friday night, ranged far to his left to field an Aaron Hill grounder that, had it gone through, would have driven in the winning run for the Brewers in the ninth.

That is much more the kind of thing the Mets expect from Johnson. He played every infield position and the corner outfield positions for the Mets last year.

"He's going to spell guys," Collins said of Johnson's role this season. "Again, he gives us flexibility, he's played a lot of left field, we've got some double-switch options, he's a good bat off the bench. And as we know, anything can happen. You look up and you're getting a lot more playing time than you expected."

Plus, there are Johnson's intangible assets, which are considerable.

"He's a quality guy, a quality guy in the clubhouse," Collins said. "He's a veteran guy who knows his role and goes about it the right way. He doesn't over-price himself, he knows what he can do, he doesn't get carried away with the good days or the bad days, he rolls along. But his presence on the bench, in the clubhouse is huge.

"He's a real positive guy; he's always got a smile. When it comes to crunch time, your bench and your bullpen are what you turn to. It's nice to have some quality veteran guys on that bench."

Johnson's family is in Atlanta. But he also left the Braves, the team with the worst record in the National League for an extremely viable contender. No introductions will be needed. The Mets know him. He knows the Mets. And nobody can argue with the memories from 2015.

"You can't be any happier than with a team going to the World Series, playing in the World Series and being with this group of guys, in that moment, to be able to compete at that level, to pull for each other and cheer for each other," Johnson said. "The talent is definitely here, but what sometimes sets champions apart is the chemistry, is guys pulling in the right direction, pulling for each other, and I think we do that here."

Johnson's expectations for his situation with the Mets match the club's expectations for him.

"I think it's fairly obvious how things are going to go," Johnson said. "Whenever my name's called or wherever I'm asked to play, I'll go play and do the best I can."

It is good to be wanted, especially by a winning team, a pennant-winning team. This is a move that Johnson will be happy to make.

"I've done my fair share of moving, eight teams, and now I've done two different teams more than once," Johnson said with a smile. "Five teams in the last two years, I did a whole division. It's no secret I've been on the move. I have three kids. My wife has been awesome. She takes care of so many things and does such a good job with everything."

That "does such a good job with everything" sounds like a description of Kelly Johnson as well.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.