LA Angels Acquire Jim Johnson, International Pool Space From Braves

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23: Jim Johnson
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23: Jim Johnson /

Just one day after Yusmeiro Petit signed a 2 year, $10 million deal with the Oakland A’s, the LA Angels front office have completed a deal with the Atlanta Braves to bolster their bullpen in 2018.

The MLB Hot Stove is beginning to pick up for the LA Angels. Two moves were made yesterday by the Oakland A’s and Arizona Diamondbacks to add relief pitching. This morning, the Angels have made a trade with the Braves, acquiring 34 year-old RHP Jim Johnson, as well as international pool space. In return, the Braves added minor league LHP Justin Kelly.

Jim Johnson is a 6’6” right hander coming off a bounce back year in 2017. He compiled a 6-3 record and 22 saves in 56.2 innings. Johnson was an all-star for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012, where he compiled a career high 51 saves. After that season, Johnson has bounced around between 5 teams in the next 5 years.

Justin Kelly is a 24 year old, left handed pitcher from UC Santa Barbara. He was drafted in the 33rd round in 2016. In two minor league seasons, Kelly has gone from rookie ball all the way to Triple A by the end of 2017. Although a quick rise to Triple A from Kelly, he was not listed as a top 30 prospect in the Angels organization.

As mentioned above, the Jim Johnson trade comes just one day after the Angels lost arguably their best relief pitcher from 2017, Yusmeiro Petit. Petit was 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 91.1 innings. He solidified the back end of the pen for Mike Scioscia last year, and will be missed. Johnson will be asked to come in and join an overachieving bullpen from 2017, likely taking over a late inning role. If Johnson can improve even further from 2017, this looks like another low cost transaction that could prove valuable in 2018.

The Angels also received international pool space in 2017-2018. This is important for two reasons. First, the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes have just begun. Any extra money the Angels can offer him is a plus, even though there has not been any indication that LA is pushing hard to sign him. More importantly, the Atlanta Braves were forced to give up 13 of their international prospects that were signed by John Coppolella. Coppolella has been Atlanta’s general manager since 2015, but has been banned from the MLB for international signing infractions. All 13 prospects are now free agents and eligible to sign with other teams from December 5th to January 15th. The extra money the Angels obtained in this deal could be used to go after any of those 13 prospects.

The Angels wasted no time replacing Yusmeiro Petit. Jim Johnson has shown to be a quality bullpen arm over his 12 year career. Billy Eppler and his staff have done a terrific job in past seasons with pitchers that seem past their prime, and this could be another example.