Cubs fan favorite Reed Johnson will be extending his stay on the North Side into the 2012 season. The team website announced that the team and player have agreed to a one year deal, pending a passed physical to make it official.
Johnson had a great bounce back year in 2011 for himself and the Cubs after struggles in 2010 with the Dodgers led to the veteran outfielder settling for a minor league deal last off season. He hit .309 with a .816 OPS in a reserve role and the Cubs will be looking for him to fill that need again this coming season.
Johnson quickly became a fan favorite during his first go around in Chicago with his gritty play. Fans may still remember him climbing the wall in Milwaukee to rob Prince Fielder of a home run and the amazing diving catch in Washington that bent back the bill of his cap.
The veteran outfielder definitely remembers the good times he had here, which led to his willingness to sign on a minor league deal last year. As the roster stands now, Johnson will be capable of backing up Alfonso Soriano in left, Marlon Byrd in center, and David DeJesus in right. The move will most likely leave Bryan LaHair and Tony Campana fighting for the fifth outfielder spot, and we will most likely see hot prospect Brett Jackson start the season in the minors for at least the first month or so. This of course is all assuming the Cubs are not able to find any takers for Soriano or deal away Byrd.
Some will argue that Jackson should be the one getting experience at the Major League level instead of reserve veteran like Johnson, but the back up role is not one that you want to corner a young prospect into. Jackson will benefit that much more from a few more at bats in the minors. If more regular playing time opens up as the 2012 season goes along, that will be the time to call up Jackson and plug him in. The veteran Johnson has proven that he can be productive in a limited role, so the signing makes perfect sense.
The 40 man roster now stands at 36 players.