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Braves sign Kelly Johnson to minor league deal

Kelly Johnson reunites with the Braves after five years apart.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In a reunion of sorts, the Atlanta Braves have signed infielder Kelly Johnson to a minor league deal, per MLB.com's Mark Bowman. The deal also includes an invite to big league Spring Training

The now 32-year-old Johnson was originally drafted by the Braves in the first round of the 2000 draft, and spent the first 10 years of his professional career with the organization, debuting in the majors in 2005. Johnson played quite well in his time in Atlanta (103 OPS+, 7.5 WAR in just over 1,900 plate appearances), but didn't fully break out until 2010, his first year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he hit .284/.370/.496  for a 127 OPS+ and posted a 4.2 WAR. However, Johnson has failed to replicate those numbers, performing as a slightly below-average offensive second baseman since the start of 2011, and playing for a total of six clubs (Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles) over the past five seasons.

Johnson had arguably the worst year of his career in 2014, hitting just .215/.296/.362 with a 86 OPS+, seven home runs, and a 0.5 WAR in 297 plate appearances. He was dealt from New York to Boston in exchange for Stephen Drew at the trade deadline, and was later traded to the Orioles at the end of August.

Capable of playing second base, third base, and left field (though he has spent an overwhelming amount of his career at the keystone), Johnson gives the Braves some versatility, and could find himself serving in a sort of super-utility role. He should also have a shot at earning a starting gig at either second or third at some point this season, as incumbents Alberto Callaspo and Chris Johnson are both coming off poor seasons, and could find themselves vulnerable with poor starts to the season.