As has been reported in other places, the Mariners have designated Rob Johnson for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Jack Cust. The team now has ten days to trade Johnson, release him, or - if he clears waivers - assign him to the minors. This is only the first of two such moves, as the M's will also soon have to lose another guy to make room for Miguel Olivo, but while we don't know what that second move will be, it's unlikely to be received as warmly as the first.
Indeed, Rob Johnson did not endear himself to thefan base, and - at least among the broad online community - few tears are being shed over this afternoon's news. As a 27 year old healthy backstop with Major League experience, Johnson should end up getting claimed by someone else, meaning his days here are almost certainly through. And those are days of which we have few fond memories.
As often as people liked to joke that the Mariners would never willingly lose Johnson for as long as pitchers loved working with him so much, it's important not to conflate one's own opinions with those of the team. The organization clearly had things that it liked about Johnson, but the writing, it seems, has been on the wall for several months that Adam Moore had surpassed him on the depth chart, despite all of his struggles. All of the talk has been about Moore. Johnson faded into the background, and that probably wasn't a coincidence - he hadn't taken advantage of his opportunities.
Johnson, mind you, has only played in 161 Major League games, but there wasn't any apparent progress made between 2009 and 2010. All of the same problems were still there, both behind the plate and beside it, and that had to have been the source of much frustration. Johnson was coming off three dozen surgeries to repair issues that plagued him in 2009, and he was supposed to be better. He didn't get better. Or at least, his results didn't reflect any hints that he got better. I think it's telling that he was sent to the minors in August.
Is Johnson so bad that he had this coming? Does he have a big league future? I think it's easy to see him carving out some role for himself somewhere else. There's something about him that pitchers seem to like, and he has at times flashed some decent plate discipline. But while, a few years ago, it was possible to look at Johnson and squint and maybe see a starter down the road, it's much harder to do that now. He doesn't hit for power. His defense, while short of disastrous, isn't where it ought to be. There's little room for upward growth, meaning Johnson's ceiling these days looks to be as a backup. And one should never be too concerned about losing a possible backup.
Adam Moore has a lot of work to do, but Adam Moore has Rob Johnson's skillset and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. The separation between the two is that simple, but when you're talking about guys on the fringe, it can make a world of difference.
Rob Johnson is by most reports a fine fellow, and Rob Johnson is by all reports a fellow I'd be happy to never see in a Mariners uniform ever again.