Reed Johnson has had a hell of a season. And he’s had an even better week.

He’s got seven hits in his last two games, and he’s got his OPS over .950. I semi-joked in an Enhanced Box Score that teams should be looking hard to Johnson as a fourth outfielder, and that joke is becoming a reality.

Johnson, hitting .349 with a .568 slugging percentage, is drawing some interest from clubs looking for another right-handed bat for a playoff run. While Johnson wouldn’t mind playing on a contender again, he said he would like to return to the Cubs.

“I hope so,” he said. “That’s always the plan. You never know what direction the organization is going to go, and what their plans are for outfielders. Hopefully I’m part of their plans. We’ll see. Being here, I feel like if the fans appreciate the way I play, then that’s always nice to feel.”

Nothing as insubstantial as the future of a fourth outfielder on a team 16 games under .500 polarizes fans more than Johnson. It’s impossible not to be compelled by the way he plays the game, and by the way he’s been hitting this year. The fact that he wants to be a Cub only makes us like him more.

But he has genuine value that is going to waste on a team not in contention. Another team may not be willing to give up much to get that value, but something is better than nothing, no? And, it’s not as if Johnson couldn’t return to the Cubs in 2012 if each side so desired.

Moreover, his presence subjugates Tyler Colvin to the bench more often than not, now that Johnson is hitting so well – and now that Mike Quade has made clear that all he cares about is winning right now.

When asked whether he would consider putting Colvin into the starting lineup and leaving him there for a week or more to see what he can do (which was Jim Hendry’s explicitly stated reason for trading Kosuke Fukudome), Quade blanched.

“I won’t throw my veterans, who have been battling all year, [on the bench],” Quade said. “Especially Reed [Johnson] — what a year he’s had — and say, ‘You’re going to sit down for a week.’ No …. And these kids will get their at-bats and opportunities, but to me it’s not just, ‘Here it is, go get it and the rest of these guys can watch you play.'” Quade emphasized that, if Colvin is going to play, he has to “earn” that time. Which, of course, is hard to do when you’re always coming off the bench.

For this reason, perhaps more than any other, I suspect the Cubs will explore trading Johnson, if possible. Hendry, who controls who goes and who stays, says he wants Colvin starting. But, as long as Johnson remains in a Cubs uniform, that won’t happen. Maybe Hendry will force the issue by dealing Johnson. Indeed, maybe Hendry’s been happy to see this showcase from Johnson, who was injured before the non-waiver trade deadline and couldn’t be traded at that time. Either way, if Hendry’s going to act, now is the time – both in terms of Johnson’s value, and Colvin’s playing time.

I understand the consternation, though. Johnson is a bright spot in a dismal season, and gives fans something – and someone – to cheer about. He’s fun to watch.

As an aside, do other organizations so consistently have this issue of a GM and manager having divergent interests/beliefs/approaches, such that the GM regularly has to make moves to force the manager to do the right thing? This happened under Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, too, so I can only conclude it’s a Hendry thing. It may seem unfair to criticize Hendry when it is the manager being obstinate, but, when it happens under three different managers, I can’t help but believe Hendry needs some work at getting on the same page with his guys. Or he needs to make better hiring decisions.

  • Mike Foster

    Time for Hendry to say something bad about Johnson, isn’t it?

    • Brett

      Ha. Spot on.

  • gblan014

    I have to say I sort of agree with Quade on this one. Johnson is lights out right now while Colvin has…well he’s sucked. Pretty much all year. If I was manager, I’d want to win every night too; doesn’t matter if we’re 20 games back. Not to mention that with every passing loss, Quade puts his own job in jeopardy more and more. So while we might not agree with Quade’s approach, I can certainly see where he’s coming from.

    • EQ

      I agree Colvin’s sucked.. but I still don’t feel like they’ve given him consistent playing time.. maybe with the playing time the confidence goes up and he starts getting back in the groove.

  • RY

    Reed needs to be on this team next year imo. he is the most consistent outfielder we have and he hustles his ass off. good guy to keep around at a discount!

    • Brett

      Keep in mind, Johnson has been consistent (when healthy) THIS year, but as recently as last year, he looked totally done. Take a look at his numbers since 2006 (which happens to be the last year he was above average), and you see that this year is probably an aberration. And the guy will be 35 in December.

      • CubFan Paul

        maybe Reed is juicin’, if so, good for him ..end his career on a bang ..him batting 2nd is badass for the offense. I’m quite sure Colvin could (and will) out do Soriano’s production & numbers for the rest of the year ..Quade could appease the media by sitting Soriana 3-4 days a week, so Colvin could play more & Quade keeps Reed’s bat in the lineup 3-4 days a week

  • Matt Murton

    Trying to save his own job is totally justifiable… However, this just reaffirms that Quade isn’t the guy for this job. I was never crazy about the idea of hiring someone like Ryno, but an ex-player is the kind of person who would thrive in this situation. Just like you said Brett, Colvin is going to have a really hard time earning playing time when he’s coming off the bench. Thats a job that a veteran like Reed Johnson was signed for. He’s been around and knows how to adjust to playing every few days. Colvin has been playing every day for his for probably his whole life until this year (I’m still not sure why his numbers last year weren’t good enough for anyone to give him a chance- Quade especially, considering some of Colvin’s play helped earn him this job in the first place), so there’s no chance that he is going to be able to come off the bench every three days and produce like someone who is able to get in a rhythm every day in the starting lineup. It’s all about making adjustments on a day to day basis, and if you don’t have any plating time to make adjustments based off of, how are you going to get better? Well, as we’ve seen this year with our boy Tyler… You’re not.

  • CubFan Paul

    ..i bet Reed’s back flares up again before a trade happens, smh

  • hansman1982

    Quade is a moron, I agree it is much easier to sell coming back next year to management if you have a strong finish but if he can point to some key pieces that he developed and show how much better they fit he would, at least in my book, be more likely to come back.

    Please, Tom, fire Hendry and bring Cashman on board.

    • Fishin Phil

      “Please, Tom, fire Hendry and bring Cashman on board.”

      Or Zippy the Chimp for that matter.

  • auggie1955

    Yeah, I’m all for trading Reed now and getting want we can for him. I love the guy, but let’s get what we can and re-sign him next season.

    Reed accepts his role as a 4th OFer and is very good at it. Him and Byrd are two of my favorite Cubs.

  • Chris

    That’s the thing. I like Reed… a lot. He’s my wife’s favorite Cub and I want them to win, but I feel like Quade is really misusing Colvin. Tyler needs ML at bats and can play 3, maybe four positions. You could pop him into any position in the outfield (although he’s better in the corners) and they could use him to give Pena a day off (in a pinch.) It’s a great opportunity to see what he can do in the outfield while giving those guys days off. While I would love to have Reed stick around next year, because there’s very little to not like about him, he really is blocking kids from coming up.

  • Seth Majewski

    this is why i dont want jackson up right now. hes going to sit on the bench while quade plays Johnson. He’s going to get a start or two a week, probably struggle,(because hes not in there everyday) and quade will say he hasnt earned it. Thats what happened to colvin. Colvin could repeat his rookie numbers if he played everyday.

    • dreese

      I totally agree

  • Spencer

    I don’t buy into this idea of the GM making trade to “force the manager’s hand”. First of all, that’s not a good way to build rapport between the GM/manager; second, that seems like an extreme overreaction; and third, the Cubs are a business. And in business, there’s a chain of command. That chain of command is Ricketts –> Hendry –> Quade. You do what your superior says. If you don’t, you get fired. So if Hendry wants Colvin to be played, Quade damn well better play him. If you don’t listen to your boss in real life, you get fired. Firing Quade would be the appropriate response, not trading away a player and being “haha gotcha! NOW play who I want you to.”

  • Toosh

    MLBTR posted a list of possible replacement GMs. Good read.

    • Brett

      Agreed. It was interesting for many reasons. I’ll be putting together a post on it.

  • RY

    good point brett!

  • Bazfan1234

    I love Johnson’s hustle and attitude but if he could being some value I say trade him, but of course, Hendry will just say he is “untouchable”.

  • Caleb

    Reed for president!!

    Here’s a thought: how about Reed Johnson *is* the Cubs outfielder? Like, for permanent. True, he’s not an untested prospect who is young and filled with “upside,” but he’s a f*ck of a good outfielder. Injury risk? Maybe. Okay, probably. But until he *is* on an extended DL tour, why not actually make him the official Cubs outfielder? He rocks. Admit it.

    And, if he gets injured (as I know you think is inevitable), Colvin will be there ready to get his starts and at bats. Or if he drops down to average or worse, put in Colvin. Either we have a rockstar outfielder in Johnson or Colvin gets his at bats. Win either way.

    “Yeah, but we’re out of contention and we might get something if we trade him and we can always get him back!”

    Fair point. But is that how we treat our players? “Go over there now, play hard, change your city, change uniforms, leave your friends, then maybe we’ll get you next year, unless a kid that we think will be much better than you turns out to be great, then we might either abandon you or pay you pennies to come be our 4th outfielder.”

    Where’s the respect there? Shenanigans. If someone plays their a&& off, excels, proves their worth, you reward them. Reed wants to play- let him play. Isn’t our goal to be more pragmatic and logical as a team? I’d say rewarding great play with the opportunity to keep playing is as logical as it gets.

    • Brett

      Here’s the thing about Reed Johnson being a starting outfielder in the future: he hasn’t been above average offensively since 2006 until this year. He’s also about to turn 35. He also has chronic back problems. He’s also lost considerable range in the outfield. He’s a good bench player. That’s it. And that’s just this year.

      Being nice and “rewarding” players hasn’t worked for decades. Do you think the Red Sox and Yankees “reward” players? Shit no. They make calculated decisions about how to construct a championship team for this and future years. Sometimes that means bringing guys back, sometimes it means shipping guys out.

      • Fishin Phil

        You ruthless beast! Brett for GM!

        • http://Bleachernation Dan Ballard

          Well said Brett. Does anyone think Girardi feels good about sitting Posada on the bench? Hell no! Buts its what is best for the team and thats his job, to make those decisions and do what he must to make the team better. Playing Reed ahead of Colvin just to try to save your job, does more to stunt the growth of the team, than it does good. Thats also why I want Jackson to stay down at AAA. All Qball would do in miss use him and blame him for the lack of production in his five pinch hitting chances.

      • Caleb

        Fair points, but hey- berkman is playing. Not a perfect comparison, but he is old, likely to be injured, and playing well above where he “should”. And the posada bit is exactly right- he’s NOT doing well, and so he sits. Reed is rocking, so why not play him? And yes, maybe quad should apply this “performance is what matters” philosophy more evenly. But at least it’s a possible alternative explanation for Quade’s decision to play reed. Saving his job? I don’t know that, and I doubt anyone else does either. Could it be that he just wants his team to know that If you play great ball, you get to stay in the lineup? Seems plausible to me. More plausible than him screwing the team to save his own skin. He may not be a perfect manager, but I give him more credit as a person than that. As should more of you.

  • Cheryl

    Even if Johnson was traded, who would get playing tie? DeWitt!

  • PFK

    And Girardi is supported by his GM. Hendry and Q are not on the same page. But, then again, Hendry never seems to be on the same page. The problem the Cubs have is organizational. If you look at the great teams in history, they have had a GM and manager who are in sync and the relationships are successful and usually last a long time. To wit: Buzzi Bavasi and Walter Alston; Al Campanis and Tommy Lasorda; John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox; Walt Jocketty and Tony Larussa; Brian Cashman and Joe Torre.
    The Cubs just keep changing and changing because they don’t have a President nor a GM who really knows what he is doing. A good GM knows EXACTLY what type of team he wants, how to build it and who can exactly manage that type of team.
    We can talk of trading this player or that player but in my book its all mental masturbation until we get the organization fixed.

  • EQ

    Anybody read Rosenbloom’s latest rant on this topic?? .. wow..

    • TWC

      Rosenbloom’s a douche. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. It’s just worth a mention.

      I wonder if there is anyone, anywhere — OK, other than Caleb — that actually advocates starting Reed everyday. (Actually, I’d have no problem w/ Reed starting every day, as long as he’s doing it in left field.)

      • CubFan Paul

        lol@the lineup today! Reed is in, Colvin is out, Soriano in left..

        • Fishin Phil

          Now Q-ball is just doing it to piss us off.

        • Cheryl

          If you asked Quade, When will Colvin play? THe answer will be, “He has to earn it.” If Colvin has to earn it, he has to play. It’s a merry-go-round. There’s no way Colvin can earn it at this rate. Didn’t Ricketts want Colvin to play near the beginning of the season? Quade will argue that Colvin wasn’t up to it. But Quade also has a habit of placing people in roles where they are bound to fail. That way he can justify his use of veterans. At this point in time Quade can argue that isn’t the goal of the cubs to win each game? He’ll always have an argument for putting veterans on the field and placing rookies on the bench. Until there is a change in management (Hendry, Quade, etc.) it’s probably best to not bring up any rookies in September. Why put them through what Colvin has been put through?

    • Toosh

      I read it too. He hit the nail on the head. Kenney and Hendry and Quade must go. I’ll give Ricketts the benefit of the doubt that he’s doing some behind-the-scenes stuff, but right now it’s looking like he’s not paying attention.

      • Fishin Phil

        I think that is the first time in my life that I have ever agreed with Rosenbloom. The Apocolypse aproaches…..

  • EQ

    So maybe the Cubs try like heck to trade Soriano next year and pay most his salary.. like all but 5 mil a year.. now you can start Reed in LF and Colvin in RF.. problem solved.. when/if Reed starts fading with regular playing time, you can call up Brett Jackson… at least the defense will be much, much better.

  • Jeff

    More double standards by Mike Quade. Veterans who loaf day in and out are given free passes, while the young guys have to “earn” playing time. Like Koyie Hill and his mendoza line worship, or Soriano and his “i don’t know how what to do in this situation” defense, or ARam and his “don’t care right now” third base. He throws Castro under the bus any time he can, he says Samardzija can’t start but James Russell can, and now Colvin has to earn the playing time that’s being given to Soriano for free. Mike Quade can’t stick to a plan himself, how the hell is he going to get on the same page as the rest of the organization? I can’t remember a manager/gm pair doing less for the future of the team than Q&H have done in the last year.

  • Jeff
  • philoe beddoe

    Really..what could we get for Reed Johnson?….

    • EQ

      Yeah, and let’s see, Reed gets on base, plays smart, hustles, is a good defender, and wants to win.. yeah, we may as well get rid of him.. that’s not a Cub-type of player. We need to get those good influence/hard worker types out of the clubhouse.

  • philoe beddoe

    wait a minute…just looked at the list of 2012 free-agents…what a load of garbage…maybe we better keep Reed…

  • EQ

    that’s what I’ve been saying for months.. nothing after Pujols and Fielder.. we will suck again next year.

  • Deez

    Quade “constantly” shows he’s not the man to lead this organization on the field. 2- 4th OFers & a washed up overpaid DH type in the OF starting for meaningless late season wins. We’ve been out of the playoff hunt since June. I like Byrd & Johnson & they are good clubhouse guys, but that’s all they are, Clubhouse guys. Complementary guys/Glue guys, they play supporting roles not starting roles. At this point, no one has brought them in the build an organization around it’s a reason. Colvin wholeheartedly deserves the opportunity & the Reps because none of those guys are in the Cubs 4yr plan, just like Quade.

    • Darrellb

      I doubt if Colvin is in the 4 year plan either. Most likely younger players will pass him for outfield spots.

  • RoughRiider

    I’m not comparing Colvin to Sandberg by any stretch of the imagination. However, If I remember correctly Sanderg went something like 3 for 32 and 4 fo 30 two seasons in a row when he first came up. I quess if Quade had been the manager Sandberg wouldn’t have been with the Cubs very long.

  • Bryan

    Sounds like Quade is Bruce Kimm. Playing veterans instead of the youngsters on a losing club.

  • Darrellb

    I think it’s wrong to assume that Hendry and Quade are in disagreement on this. No one said that Colvin would play every day. Certainly it was wrong to expect him to start against lefties.
    Fukudome being gone does insure that Colvin will have more opportunities for the rest of the season. The problem is Colvin has responded poorly when given an opportunity.
    Colvin is not old. He has the opportunity to prove himself in spring training or spend some extended time at AAA. I would like him to prove he can hit AAA pitching.