The Mets and Padres pulled off a minor deal that will give several players a change of scenery. Outfielder Ben Johnson and righthander Jon Adkins joined the Mets, with righthander Heath Bell and lefty Royce Ring going the other way.
Johnson, a fourth round pick of the Cardinals in 1999 out of a Tennessee high school, failed to establish himself as a major league regular in 2006, after entering the season ranked as the club’s No. 4 prospect. He has batted just .236/.324/.441 in 195 big league at-bats, but is a career .263/.351/.447 hitter in almost 3,000 minor league at-bats. The 25-year-old Johnson, who has spent most of his time in San Diego playing left field, has the arm for right and can handle center in small doses. He enjoyed his best minor league season in 2005 after he shortened his swing and improved his grasp of the strike zone while still maintaining above-average power. He hit .312/.394/.558 with 25 home runs for Triple-A Portland that year, far and away his best work. Johnson joined the Padres in 2000 in the trade that sent catcher Carlos Hernandez to the Cardinals.
Adkins put together his best big league season in 2006, going 2-1, 3.98 in 54 innings for the Padres. He was a ninth-round pick of the Athletics in 1999 out of Oklahoma State and was traded to the White Sox for Ray Durham in 2002. Adkins, 29, got his first extended big league look with Chicago in 2004, but gave up 13 home runs and posted a 4.65 ERA in 62 innings, dooming him to a 2005 spent almost exclusively at Triple-A Charlotte. For his minor league career, Adkins is 47-43, 4.53 with 504-221 strikeouts-walks in 734 minor league innings. 119 of his 158 appearances have been starts.
Bell has had a distinguished minor league career, but had not earned many high-leverage inning opportunities with the Mets, despite pitching 108 big league relief innings the past three seasons. He’s 1-5, 4.92 with 105-30 strikeouts-walks in that time. Bell, 29, was signed as a nondrafted free agent by the Mets in 1998 and has amassed 108 saves in 343 minor league games, just two of them starts. He’s 23-20, 3.17 with 543-128 strikeouts-walks in 468 minor league innings.
Ring, the 18th overall pick of the White Sox in the 2002 draft out of San Diego State, had seen his fastball velocity diminish since his days as power lefty closer for the Aztecs. He joined the Mets in 2004 as the main piece for Roberto Alomar, and the Mets dropped his arm angle in 2005 to give lefthanded batters a tougher look. Using his fastball and slider, the 25-year-old Ring limited Triple-A lefties to averages of .145 and .140 in 2005 and 2006, including just three extra-base hits, all in 2005. Ring has found less regular work in the big leagues, as he’s gone 0-2, 3.47 in 23 innings. For his minor league career, he’s 16-9, 3.06 in 227 innings and has never started a pro game.