The Cleveland Indians have designated Chris Johnson for assignment, the team confirmed on Twitter. Johnson’s roster spot was needed once recently acquired outfielder Rajai Davis completed his physical and was added to the 40-man roster, which happened earlier today.
Johnson was brought over in the 2015 season as part of a deal that sent Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to Atlanta Braves. He was little more than a way for the Braves to balance out their own budget while taking on Swisher and Bourn's contracts, and never had much of a future in Cleveland anyway. It is very surprising, however, to see him designated for assignment before someone like outfielder Jerry Sands.
The Indians will remain on the hook for Johnson’s contract over the next two years: $7.5 million in 2016, $9 million in 2017, and $10 million in 2018. The final year also contains a $1 million buyout, which the Indians will surely take.
Johnson played in only 27 games for the Tribe, with his time mostly cut short by a mysterious spider bite injury that became infected while the team was in Minnesota for a game against the Twins. He slashed .289/.312/.367 with one home run for the Indians.
As Tony Lastoria of Indians Baseball Insider points out, Johnson has the option of declining his assignment to the minor leagues and he could become a free agent, which would let the Indians off the hook for his contract if someone else signs him. If he does not, he should easily clear waivers and be assigned to Triple-A, where the Indians will be paying him more than $15 million over the next two years to help the Columbus Clippers win another championship.