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Washington Nationals: Trade Deadline Roundtable - Nick Johnson?

(ed. note - "I asked the Federal readers recently, if they'd be interested in participating in a roundtable discussion about what they expected to see happen and what the Washington Nationals should do in these last few days before the July 31, 2009 MLB Trade Deadline. What follows are the transcripts of those discussions, with myself, Ed Chigliak moderating. But first a quick introduction..."):

Ed Chigliak: Quick Roll Call...Nationals' Fan or Old Expos' Fan, I'll Go First??

Ed Chigliak: Old Expos' Fan...

 Mezza: Nats fan.  Personally, I dont think two kinds of blue 'works' on a uniform.

Doghouse: Nats fan! They got me back into baseball after 15+ years away from the game.


John: I'm a Nats fan. I grew up in the area, and I went to Orioles games on occasion, but they never felt like the home team.

Martins: Nats Fan, love the dynamic of the team this year. They are the last place team that is much better than a last place team!

Graysnail: Old Expos fan who somehow ended up where the Nats are.  Not sure how that happened.

Jim: Old Expos fan who longs for the glory days of the early 1990s.



Ed Chigliak: "Final Arguments: Should The Washington Nationals Trade Nick Johnson Before The Trade Deadline? Why? Why Not?"...

Ed Chigliak: "Final Arguments: Should The Washington Nationals Trade Nick Johnson Before The Trade Deadline? Why? Why Not?"

Mezza:  Yes - ONLY if it all works in our favour. Nick is an excellent first baseman for the Nats, but I think there is a big risk that he wont re-sign with the Nats...leaving us with a sandwich pick.  While sandwich picks make me hungry - you only get unproven talent there.  If we could get a proven player who is young, and near major league ready...I think we should seriously cash Nick in rather than risk having him run out on the Nats.  Then trade for Prince Fielder.   

Doghouse:  It's the same problem with every trade!  If he's good we want to keep him, but if he stinks we can't get anything for him.  Nick probably won't match his career 2006 season, but he's on pace for his career-average with the bat so far, which is decent: 295/407/405 with a 118 OPS+.  Unfortunately, that's below average for NL 1Bs.  Even worse, he's lost a step in the field: his defense is on pace to be about 8 runs worse than league average, in spite of all his DCCTs ("Dunn Couldn't Catch That").  He's better than a few 1Bs [coughMetsAsOscough], but he's in the bottom half of the league.  What are we going to get for a two-month rental of that, especially given the injury black-cloud that everyone sees hovering over his head?  Even worse, what's going to happen with a butcher like Dunn or even Willingham at 1B?  Don't kill the Riggleman Rally!  Keep NJ and cross your fingers for a sandwich pick!

John: Absolutely not... conditionally. I don't think there is, or ever should be, a player that is absolutely untouchable. For that reason, given the right offer, I think Johnson should be traded. I doubt that'll happen, so I'd like to see him  stay with the Nationals for many reasons: he's the last remaining Expo (not a good reason from a baseball standpoint), he's not a bad defensive first baseman, he's a decent hitter (.407 OBP), and, most importantly, the Nationals' next best 1B (Chris Marrero) is still at Potomac. Sure, Riggleman could put Dunn at first, but he's made four errors in ten games there, versus eight in 83 in the outfield. Keep Nick around, let him mentor Marrero next season, and then see what happens.

Martins: I don't think so, but only because I don't think they can get enough in return for the move to be considered profitable. Nick Johnson has his problems: He doesn't hit for extra bases, and he is a decent defensive first basemen at best. However, having said that, let's look at the names of the players who have been connected with Nick Johnson trade rumors in the past. 


Aubrey Huff(BAL) 


Huff has a career on base percentage of of .342*, Yikes. That number alone would drive me away. One of the most important jobs a hitter has is to not make an out, to get on base. Aubrey Huff does not accomplish this at an acceptable rate. In fact, he doesn't even come close. As far as slugging percentage goes, the two are pretty much a wash (.404 '09 slugging percentage for Huff, .405 for Johnson). This means that you are trading away a hitter in Nick Johnson who gets on base at a higher rate** than your compensation for him, while the two slug at an equal rate. This is bad medicine, in my opinion. Nick Johnson is the clear winner in this contest. 


Daniel Murphy(NYM) 


I have never been too comfortable with the idea of trading prospects for established players, and this one I really hate. Maybe it's because we've seen Murphy struggle so much at the big league level. In his (admittedly limited) big league career, he is OPSing .731 (.665 this season). I almost hate to even bring up his numbers, because he has seen such little playing time (414 ABs). The point, however, is that we have no idea what Daniel Murphy will turn out to be, and if these numbers indicate anything (they may not), it doesn't look very good. 




If the Nats were trying to sell high on Nick Johnson, the time to do it was in late May, when he was 336/434/467. At this point, it doesn't make any sense to trade the guy. He is a decent player, but no one an organization will bend over backwards for. Add to that the supposed threat of looming injury (which I believe to be old news) and you've got a guy who is just not good trade bait. Let him see what he can do here, have him get on base for the big bats in the lineup.

Graysnail: At this point, what would you get for him?  While I was big on trading him a few months ago, I just don't think the trade value is there.  Most of the prospective partners that would actually have a need for NJ have since addressed their need (unless the Angels get really dumb and/or Giants get really dumb - and even the Giants have Ryan Garko now), and even then you're looking at some random MR-type prospect who may or may not pan out.  You can also refer to that as "bag o' magic beans."  The best thing for the Nats going forward is that NJ hit the tar out fo the ball and luck into snagging a sandwich pick for him.

Jim: I've written many words in favor of trading Nick Johnson this season, and I still think that it's the right move.  There is some question as to whether or not they'll even get compensation.  I've seen conflicting reports about where the Elias Rankings have him, and they're not even close to similar.  One report had him at 60.8, barely achieving Type B Free Agent Status.  Another has him at 41, which would leave him far short of reaching that status no matter what he does the rest of the way.  From what I've seen, it's possible that the first update had skewed OBP into the mix a little too heavily, so I'm not so sure it looks good.  


Given that there's a good chance they'll get no compensation if Johnson leaves via free agency, it makes little sense to keep him on what has been a sinking ship for most of the season.  The problem is that they needed to deal him well before the deadline.  The teams that were looking hardest to acquire a first baseman all season long have already acquired (in my eyes) lesser first basemen in the past week.  There aren't likely to be many dance partners left for Mike Rizzo, which means he's going to have to come to grips and take a value that's lower than he's been asking.  Even if Johnson were to acquire Type B status, a prospect who is a little further along in his development is much more projectable for the future than a sandwich pick.  Ideally, Johnson will not be wearing a Nats' uniform on Saturday, but I'm not sure that Rizzo will find a taker.

(ed. note - " * & ** = Slight statistical and grammatical edit by myself.")


Latest Update:'s Bill Ladson wrote Tuesday night, in a post at his blog entitled, "Nick Johnson's contract status", about what might happen if the Nationals don't trade Nick Johnson, who is due to become a free agent after this season. Mr. Ladson cites "baseball sources" who say, "Johnson wants a two-year deal and to make more than the three-year, $16.5 million extension he signed during the spring of 2006." Part of the reasoning, Mr. Ladson mentions for the Nationals' reluctance to part with Nick Johnson apparently has to do with the fact that:

"the Nationals don't have a player ready to replace Johnson. There has been talk all season that Adam Dunn could do the job, but he doesn't have the defensive skills that Johnson has."

• (ed. note - "I'll make my opinion clear one more time, in case i've left even the hint of ambiguity when it comes to my opinion...DNTNJ!!!! Do Not Trade Nick Johnson, sign him up and have the next-Nationals' first baseman, Chris Marrero apprentice with a pro who'll teach him to play the game the right way. Will Johnson be a Washington Nationals on Saturday? We'll have to wait and see...")

• Roundtable: Part Two of Three - Trade The Hammer While He's Hot? Trade Dunn? @ 10:30 am EST.