"I thought Kelly did a nice job, and he's definitely in the
mix for us," Anthopoulos said at his year-end news
conference. "We have an opening, he is a free agent, and in the
coming weeks, we'll certainly reach out to his agent and talk
to him, but it's hard to characterize where any of that is
going to go."
Johnson entered the year with high expectations after hitting
.284 with 18 homers and 49 RBIs for the D-backs in 2010.
But he got off to a slow start in Arizona and was never quite
able to get his season back on track.
The problems were compounded when Johnson was completely
caught off-guard by the Aug. 23 trade that sent him to Toronto for
veterans Aaron Hill and John McDonald. The D-backs were
well on their way to a postseason berth, and Johnson
expected to be a major component of any success the club
Instead his playoff aspirations were dashed,
and he once again found himself on a young team that was
building for the future.
"It was really tough, because last year was kind of that way
in Arizona," Johnson said of Toronto's youth movement. "This
year with the Diamondbacks, [success] came a lot quicker than
anybody thought. It was still fun, even though I wasn't having
the kind of year I wanted to have personally.
"It was fun coming to the park, because you kind of knew
something could happen every day, and obviously we were in
first place. It was really tough leaving."
Johnson took a couple of days after the trade to collect his
thoughts. He returned to Phoenix to collect his passport and
eventually made the trip north of the border to join his new
Once there, his transition to the American League went a lot
smoother than originally expected, in part because he was
able to quickly develop a strong working relationship with
hitting coach Dwayne Murphy.
The two built a rapport in a short period of time, and Johnson
was able to finish his otherwise disappointing campaign on a
high note, hitting .270 with an on-base percentage of .364
in 33 games with Toronto.
Now he is set to hit free agency for the first time in
his career. It's a moment that most players relish, but at the
end of the year, Johnson sounded apprehensive about the process and the uncertainty it
"It's different for
[the top-tier players] and probably a lot more enjoyable, but we'll just
have to see what happens and take it day by day," he
said. "I'm just going to have to see how it comes. Obviously, you
want to try to do what's best for your family, but at the same
time you want to go somewhere you're going to be happy and
The Blue Jays are expected to offer Johnson arbitration,
which would put him in line for a raise over the $5.85 million
he earned in 2011.
Because he is a Type-B free agent, he would net the Blue Jays a
compensation pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft if
he departs for another team.
Stockpiling Draft picks is
something Anthopoulos has emphasized during his
time in Toronto, but when it comes to Johnson, there's at least
a small chance he will have to rethink that philosophy.
This offseason's free-agent market is particularly bare at
second base. Johnson headlines the list, which also includes
Mark Ellis and Clint Barmes. Other players, such as
Hill and Brandon Phillips, could be added to the mix, but their
status is unknown because of club options on their contracts.
Anthopoulos conceded that if Johnson departs,
the Blue Jays would have to fill the void either through free
agency or trade. Top prospect Adeiny Hechavarria is expected
to spend a full season with Triple-A Las Vegas in 2012, and
the club does not have any internal candidates ready to
take over at the Major League level.
The lack of viable replacements and Johnson's ability to hit
for power could increase the club's desire to bring him back.
"It is a luxury, and I think when you look around at our
division, second base is a power position, and he fits that
mold," manager John Farrell said of Johnson, who has 39
home runs over the past two seasons. "That's not to say we have
to match other teams, but within the context of putting a guy
in the lineup that can create some damage with one swing --
he has that."
Johnson was quick to praise the direction the Blue Jays have
taken under Anthopoulos. Johnson sees an up-and-coming
organization with a lot of young pitching and the type of
offensive prowess that could lead to a playoff run in the
He's unsure as to how much interest the Blue Jays will
have in him this offseason, but he's more than willing to
sit down and discuss a deal that would keep him in Toronto
for the foreseeable future.
"I'd definitely love to hear what they have to say, what they
want to do and go from there," Johnson said. "It's going to
be interesting. I haven't heard anything and can't really
speculate until there's something to talk about. It's
something that's going to be interesting. I'll probably have
to have a bit more patience than I'm used to. But I'm