Johnson, Church non-tendered by Braves

Johnson, Church non-tendered by Braves

ATLANTA -- The Braves were able to appease Matt Diaz's wish to get his new contract completed as soon as possible. But after multiple attempts to trade Kelly Johnson, they were simply left to send the second baseman into this year's free-agent crop without gaining anything in return.

The Braves announced Saturday afternoon that Diaz had agreed to a one-year, $2.55 million contract and that relievers Peter Moylan and Boone Logan were both tendered contracts, leaving them as the club's only unsigned arbitration-eligible players. They will now either negotiate a contract or have their respective salaries determined through the arbitration process.

Johnson and outfielder Ryan Church, who stood as the club's only other arbitration-eligible players, weren't tendered contracts for the 2010 season and now are free agents.

While there is slight chance Johnson would opt to return with a salary significantly lower than the $2.8 million figure he received in 2009, this essentially puts an end to his once-promising career in Atlanta and leaves Brian McCann as the only remaining Baby Brave -- the group of 18 rookies that appeared for the 2005 National League East division-winning club.

When Johnson arrived early in the 2005 season, he was an outfielder who had established himself as a top prospect while serving as a power-hitting shortstop during his early professional years. After missing the 2006 season while rehabbing from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, he was asked to navigate into uncharted waters while serving as the starting second baseman.

Johnson's roller-coaster voyage in Atlanta saw him prove unsuccessful when he was routinely asked to hit in the leadoff position. But he was productive until this past season, when he entered into a prolonged slump in May and ended up losing the second-base job to Martin Prado by the time July arrived.

After combining to hit 28 homers during the previous two seasons and enjoying a splendid final month of the 2008 season, Johnson hit just .224 with eight homers and a .692 OPS in 106 games with Atlanta this year.

With Prado's emergence as an everyday player, the Braves didn't have room for the salary Johnson would have gained through the arbitration process.

"We just felt like with the limited at-bats we see being available, it would be difficult for Kelly to get back on track with us," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We still feel he is a talented guy."

Church, who was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this week, will be best remembered in Atlanta as the player acquired when the Braves traded Jeff Francoeur to the Mets in July. The injury-plagued outfielder battled back discomfort and played just 44 games for the Braves.

In the 111 games he combined to play for the Braves and Mets this year, Church hit .260 with two homers and a .749 OPS.

After hitting .313 with a career-high 13 homers this past season, Diaz was able to essentially double the $1.24 million salary he earned in 2009. The 31-year-old outfielder has combined to hit .316 over the course of the past four seasons with the Braves.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.