In an unusual move, 2016 marked the second consecutive year Kelly Johnson began the season with the Braves only to be traded to the Mets midway through. A dreadful start to the season while still with Atlanta brought down his overall numbers, but the 34-year-old showed some encouraging signs in his return to the Mets. In 82 games in Queens, Johnson slugged nine home runs and touted a .787 OPS that would've been his best mark over a full season since 2010. The utility man demonstrated an improved ability to make contact as well, as his 19.5 percent strikeout rate was by far his lowest since 2009. He also continued to be extremely versatile in the field, seeing time in left field and every infield spot except catcher. Entering his age-35 season, Johnson will look to catch on with a new team in a utility role, leaving him without enough projected plate appearances to interest fantasy owners in most formats.
Johnson has heard from the Reds, Braves and Blue Jays about a non-roster deal, but he's waiting on a major league contract, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Instead of spending the money it would take to sign a veteran like Johnson, teams are opting for cheaper players with little track record, so the 35-year-old finds himself a free agent late into training camp. The Indians are another possibility after they shut down Jason Kipnis for two weeks with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
Johnson is in Monday's lineup against the Cardinals. Johnson will start at second base and hit seventh for Wednesday's outing in St. Louis. Although he's hitting just .250 for the year, Johnson has heated up at the plate in recent games. Over the last 14 days, Johnson is 7-for-23 (.304) with two home runs and four walks.
Johnson walked and hit his eighth home run in a 1-for-3 game in Tuesday's win over Arizona. Johnson already has four home runs in just 29 at-bats in August. Despite his awful start to the season with the Braves (.215/.273/.289, one home run in 49 games), he has found a groove with the Mets. His batting line in New York is now up to a cool .276/.342/.524 as he is providing the power threat up the middle the Mets desperately needed.
Johnson is out of the lineup Sunday against the Padres. It's the third game in a row that he'll serve in a bench role. Jose Reyes' return from an oblique injury should effectively end Johnson's run as a regular starter. The Mets figure to run out an infield of James Loney, Neil Walker, Wilmer Flores and Reyes more often than not, forcing Johnson to settle for spot starts and pinch-hitting duties off the bench.
Johnson pinch hit for outfielder Ty Kelly in the ninth inning Wednesday, and hit a game-tying, two-run home run off D-Backs closer Jake Barrett. Unfortunately for the Mets, Johnson's heroics were not enough, as they eventually fell to Arizona 3-2 in 12 innings. Johnson actually saw another at-bat as the game went on, but struck out. Power has been hard to come by for Johnson this year, as the homer was just his 7th of the year and the RBI were his 20th and 21st despite getting 218 at-bats. Johnson's batting average now sits at .245.