Baseball Magazine

Chicago White Sox: Sox Sign Tampa Bay First Baseman Dan Johnson

By Cbr66 @JKries

Chicago White Sox: Sox Sign Tampa Bay First Baseman Dan JohnsonThe Chicago White Sox are hoping to find some lightning in a bottle by signing former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman, Dan Johnson. Johnson, who was signed by the White Sox to a minor league deal this week, suffered a wrist injury last season and only had 91 plate appearances.

Johnson hasn’t had a full workload since hitting 18 home runs with the Oakland A’s in 2007. He will likely be nothing more than a utility left-handed power bat if he makes the opening day roster, but he could be valuable either by spelling Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn occasionally, or possibly stepping in if one of the Sox sluggers gets injured, or in Dunn’s case, continues to carry a slugging percentage south of .300.

Johnson was hit on the wrist in April by a Matt Capps pitch, and didn’t see the field for most of the season. Prior to the injury, the left-handed Johnson smacked a 3-run homer off the White Sox closer at the time, Matt Thornton. Johnson’s home run in the ninth inning of that game gave the Rays their first win of the season after suffering six losses. Johnson also figured in the Rays’ eventual playoff berth, hitting a pinch-hit, two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth of the Rays’ final regular season game against the New York Yankees. That home run extended the game and the Rays’ season until Evan Longoria hit one out in the 12th inning, vaulting the Rays into the postseason.

Johnson is the type of player the White Sox may need to fill the gaps left by key players leaving town, and after GM Kenny Williams made it clear during SoxFest that the White Sox are “tapped out” and won’t be adding payroll this season. While that revelation probably won’t surprise any White Sox fans, it also adds to the general lethargy and low expectations of the Sox fan base heading into this upcoming season. While the White Sox do need to shed some payroll after a disappointing 2011 season, their currently weak farm system will remain that way while the Sox are still weighted down by some expensive, non-performing assets.

The message is clear. What you see is what you get in 2012. The White Sox are a team with more than a dozen “ifs”. If Jake Peavy can pitch like he did in the National League… If Adam Dunn can hit above a replacement-level player…. If Alex Rios can at least look like he cares to be on the field…. If Dayan Viciedo can hit like he did in the minor leagues….the White Sox might have a chance.

Those are just some of the many question marks the Sox roster is dotted with going into the 2012 season. One final if: If the White Sox veterans who struggled in 2011 can regain their form and live up to their huge contracts, the team may make some noise in the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox: Sox Sign Tampa Bay First Baseman Dan Johnson
By signing an inexpensive player like Johnson, the White Sox could get 10-15 home runs from a left-handed hitter who has obviously performed well during big moments. Johnson has a career ISO of .170 in 1,520 career plate appearances, over six seasons. Not a bad number when compared to Paul Konerko’s lifetime .218 ISO, and it’s a much better option than Mark Teahan, the Sox’s left-handed option last season, who carries a career .145 ISO. Johnson’s not a prolific power hitter, but has shown that when he can play regularly, he can put some balls in the bleachers with some consistency.

While he might not even make the opening day roster, Dan Johnson might be a nice surprise for the White Sox in 2012, and he will hopefully see some meaningful at-bats as he did for the Rays last season.

-James Kries

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