Braves announce contract extension with Chris Johnson

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Making official what was reported last night, the Braves and third baseman Chris Johnson have agreed to a three-year, $23.5 million contract extension that includes a $10 million team option for 2018.

Johnson is making $4.75 million this year and was already under team control for 2015 and 2016 via arbitration eligibility, so the extension pre-pays for those two seasons and buys out his first (and possibly second) season of free agency.

Johnson had a career-year last season, hitting .321 with 12 homers and an .816 OPS in 142 games for the Braves. However, he’s off to a slow start this season, hitting just .255 with a .641 OPS in 26 games, and Johnson is a lifetime .287 hitter with a modest .760 OPS through age 29.

He’s generally been a slightly above average hitter, but defensive metrics consistently peg Johnson as a very poor fielder at third base and because of that his overall value sabermetrically has been fairly underwhelming. The contract locks him up through age 32 and potentially age 33, and it’s the sixth extension the Braves have handed out since spring training for a total of more than $300 million in commitments.

Tim Tebow homers in spring training game

Tim Tebow
Mark Brown/Getty Images
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Mets minor league outfielder Tim Tebow hit a two-run home run during Tuesday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. It’s his first spring training home run since beginning his professional baseball career in late 2016.

Tebow, 32, is, of course, a former college football legend. He had a much-anticipated NFL career that ended up brief and disappointing, prompting a change of vocation. Tebow was passable with Double-A Binghamton in 2018, but the Mets promoted him to Triple-A for the 2019 season anyway. That was a mistake. Through 264 plate appearances, Tebow hit .163/.240/.255, ranking as the worst hitter in the minor leagues.

Tebow also walked along with the homer in three plate appearances on Tuesday. While it’s a solid early showing, Tebow participating with the other big leaguers or soon-to-be big leaguers in spring training is something of a sideshow. If he were a regular ballplayer working his way up the ranks, he likely would have been cut after last season. He certainly wouldn’t have been given an invitation to big league camp the next year.

There are aspects of the Tebow situation to respect: that he’s athletic and dedicated enough to attempt a professional career in another sport, for example. He moves tickets and merchandise. But one can’t help but wonder about the roster spot he’s holding that would otherwise go to a more deserving player.