July 19, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Reed Johnson (5) gets caught in a run down with Miami Marlins starting pitcher Mark Buehrle (56) in the fourth inning at Wrigley Field. Credit: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE

Theo Epstein Mid Season Report Card: Reed Johnson

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The calendar now reads July, and the word that comes to mind for all baseball fans is “trades”. Regardless of whether your team is up or down, there is always trade speculation involving your team. That includes our beloved Cubs. While all of the talk revolves around whether Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza will be dealt, as we approach the second half of the 2012 season, it also is a good time to review some of the moves Theo Epstein and Company have already made so far.

Even Epstein wondered out loud to reporters at Spring Training when his honeymoon period with the media and fans would be up. Two years? Two months? Or two weeks? Although the Cubs may be on pace for a record losing season, I for one will not jump the gun on the Epstein era just yet. And I am sure most reasonable Cubs fans feel the same way. So with that in mind I kick of this series of reviews with the more than just the 2012 season in mind.

Today we continue the series with the decision to bring back Reed Johnson. The fan favorite has had some of his better years in blue pinstripes as a super sub, and even the new front office looking to make changes felt that Johnson’s return for 2012 would be mutually beneficial. The veteran outfielder signed a $1.15 million one year deal, which reflected a reasonable raise from the year before.

The right handed hitter has provided manager Dale Sveum a platoon option in the lead off spot when the Cubs face lefty starters, as well as a solid fourth outfielder and defensive replacement. Johnson has also continued his trend of solid production as a Cub, sporting a line of .305 BA/.356 OBP with three homers and 15 RBI through 72 games. A few more walks to boost his OBP would go further to impress the current front office that values the stat, but where Johnson lacks in free passes he sort of makes up with the ability to grind out longer at bats.

Despite being a consummate professional with a bench role and being productive to boot, Johnson does not figure to have much trade value as the deadline quickly approaches. As we all have been aware, all of the trade talk has surrounded pitchers Dempster and Garza. If Johnson were to be dealt, the return would likely be a low level prospect or cash considerations.

Johnson becomes a free agent again this coming off season. His chances of staying a Cub for 2013 will depend more on fit than his abilities at age 35. With Alfonso Soriano rumors almost non existent and David DeJesus signed through next year, that leaves one starting outfield job left to be fought over between Bryan LaHair and a list of prospects headlined by Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur. It will be a matter of getting those younger guys some MLB experience under their belt. For Johnson to return, he would be looking at a lower salary and further reduced playing time. The plus side of his return would be the professionalism and grinder work ethic that would be great to rub off on the kids.

One of the few things that the prior front office and the current duo of Epstien and Hoyer have been able to agree on is the benefit of having Johnson as a Cub. While his 2013 future with the North Siders is up in the air, the decision to bring him back for 2012 was a solid one.

2012 Grade: B

2013 and Beyond Grade: Incomplete

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Tags: Alfonso Soriano Brett Jackson Bryan LaHair Chicago Cubs Dale Sveum David Dejesus Jed Hoyer Matt Szczur Reed Johnson Theo Epstein

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