Former Blue Jays player Kelly Johnson takes a Magical Mystery Tour


Aaaah… the magical mystery tour
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (And that’s an invitation), roll up for the mystery tour
Roll up (To make a reservation), roll up for the mystery tour
The magical mystery tour is coming to take you away
Coming to take you away
The magical mystery tour is dying to take you away
Dying to take you away, take you today
– The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour

We don’t tend to spend a lot of time revisiting former Toronto Blue Jays players like Kelly Johnson, who save tying the single-season strike-out record for the team (159 in 2012), didn’t leave a tremendous mark on the team. However, Johnson has found himself an unusual niche that deserves some mention in these waning days of the season.

You see, since making his first appearance with the Blue Jays in 2011, Kelly Johnson has appeared with five different teams in the four seasons since. While that may not seem that special, especially in the life of a journeyman player, it becomes that much more interesting when you realize those five teams are make up the entire American League East.

That’s right; the Kelly Johnson Magical Mystery Tour has taken him to each stop in the American League East. Let that sink in for a second.

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  • The first stop on his magical crossing of eastern North America started with the Blue Jays, when he was acquired in a change-of-scenery deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks that sent Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the desert. Well, Johnson played in all of 175 games with the Blue Jays, slashing .233/.323/.697 in Toronto. While he provided decent pop for a middle-infielder, his propensity for striking out and his inability to field his position adequately led the Blue Jays to look for an upgrade following the 2012 season.

    From there, Johnson tried to follow former Jays teammate Yunel Escobar, who was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2013 season. However, even Joe Maddon’s magic couldn’t mold Johnson into a viable Major Leaguer, and Johnson would last just one season as a super-utility guy in Tampa, batting .235/.305/.410 with a strike-out rate of 24.3%.

    Johnson’s next stop would be in New York, as the Yankees tried to patch up their line-up after losing Alex Rodriguez to a year-long suspension and Robinson Cano to free agency. However, Johnson’s continued struggles with contact and his lack of a true position was enough to encourage the Yankees to make a rare trade with the Boston Red Sox and take Stephen Drew off their hands in exchange.

    The Red Sox loved Johnson so much, that they kept him on the bench for most of his month there, with the veteran only appearing in 10 games and accumulating 25 plate appearances (10 SO) before they saw a weakness in Baltimore and shipped him to the Orioles.

    The Orioles, left in a unique position by losing Manny Machado for the rest of the regular season and perhaps the postseason, had to plug a hole. With their trade leverage broken due to Machado’s status leaked, the Orioles had to buy lower than they intended, hence their pursuit of Johnson. In exchange for Johnson and minor league infielder Michael Almanzar, the Orioles flipped oft-traveled Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Jemile Weeks to the Red Sox on Saturday.

    Thus completes Kelly Johnson’s wacky trade, a trip that started with Johnson forgetting his passport and likely ends with a postseason appearance.

    I guess we should all have it so tough.