Earlier today, I noted that the Chicago Cubs may be waiting until this weekend to aggressively try to close trades – the trade deadline is on Sunday at 3pm CST – but suggested that the strategy was not without risks.
One of those risks: just as other teams may suffer injuries and become more desperate, your own players may become injured and untradable.
Enter Reed Johnson’s persnickety back.
Johnson is an attractive trade candidate as a fourth outfielder and spot starter. His .924 OPS leads the Cubs, and he’s on a one-year, $900k contract. As many as a half a dozen teams would love to add him (though they aren’t willing to give up very much for him).
But he’s been unavailable for a couple days with “back stiffness.”
Johnson has missed time in the past – including this year – with back problems.
“Right now, it’s OK,” Johnson said of his back. “I’ll probably give it a day or so and make sure it’s moving in the right direction and if not, then we’ll have to make a decision as to what to do with me. If things keep moving in the right direction, then I won’t have to go on the [disabled list]. That’s always the goal.”
Obviously a disabled list stint could spell curtains for the Cubs’ ability to trade him. Johnson, because he makes so little in salary, would almost certainly not clear waivers in August, which would limit the pool of teams to which the Cubs could trade him to the one claiming team.
And, even if Johnson avoids the DL, how much is a team going to be willing to pay for a 4th outfielder with recurrent back problems? Especially considering the all-out way that Johnson plays the game. It’s exciting to watch, and you can easily appreciate his passion for the game, but it doesn’t exactly help his durability.
Waiting until the verge of the trade deadline to aggressively pursue a Johnson trade – if, indeed, that has been the Cubs’ approach – could prove a risk that doesn’t pay off.