Marlins Reel in Nick Johnson

Bedlam ruled the day of the trade deadline, and the Nick Johnson for LHP Aaron Thompson deal was no exception. The Nationals broke from their age old custom of clenching to tradeable players, and the Marlins (!) acted as buyers at the trade deadline.

The Fish will gladly insert Nick Johnson and his .417 on base percentage at 1B. In consequence, Jorge Cantu gets bumped over to third and Emilio Bonaficio gets booted to the role of utility infielder.

Johnson’s OBP matches his slugging percentage and moving to spacious Dolphin Stadium can’t really help his projection for a power recovery. ZiPS projects a .389 wOBA the rest of the season, I’d say that’s a tad too hopeful. .375 for the next 60 games seems a little more realistic. He’s normally been solid with the glove, but this year he’s slipped to a -7 per 150 games.

For his career, Cantu has been a disaster at the hot corner (-19 over 204 games), but the Marlins will absorb the hit so long as it gets Bonaficio and his sub-.300 OBP out of the lineup. After a hot start, Bonaficio rates along with the likes Jeff Francoeur as one of the worst regular players in the Senior Circuit with his -0.5 WAR.

Add this all up, and the gist is the Marlins got a win or two better. I’m not sure that helps them catch the Rockies or Giants in the Wild Card race; as a team they’ve been a bit of an overachieving bunch to begin with, but Johnson is a decent value bet.

The cost is lefty Aaron Thompson, who is better known as “Not Matt Garza” to Marlin’s fans. Thompson was Florida’s 1st round pick in the ’05 draft, but hasn’t really pitched up to scratch. He’s repeating Double-A, and is striking out a little less than 6 batters per nine innings. He works with an 89-91 MPH fastball, a curve and a changeup which grades as above average. He looks like a future back-end starter at this point.

It’s not an earth-shattering deal for either side, but I got to give the Nats some credit for turning Johnson, a player that was of no use to them, into something.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

11 Responses to “Marlins Reel in Nick Johnson”

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  1. Joe R says:

    Why did the Nats only shop Johnson is my question. Plenty of guys who teams could use, but outside of, like, Zimmerman, no one that’s worth long term consideration to the team. Do they really think Dunn is going to stick around after they go 60-102 in 2010 and some AL team is offering 4 year / $55 million to DH?

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    • Will says:

      The Nats FO view Dunn as a guy who brings fans to the game, when there is little other that could be considered a draw on the Nats. Can’t say I agree, but that’s their view.
      It seems like they’ll hold onto Dunn until next July, then field some offers. Remember, no one was willing to pay Dunn anywhere near the 2/$20mil that the Nats were offering in March, so it’s unlikely a team would be anxious to pick up his remaining $12mil. However, next year at this time, only having to commit $3-4mil to Dunn will look much more appealing.

      Then if no teams bite, the Nats will still get Type A FA compensation, when Dunn inevitably moves to the AL. Not bad for a 1.5-2 WAR player.

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  2. Joe R says:

    And by the way, since Emilio Bonifacio is mentioned here:
    For a good laugh, check out Jon Heyman’s article on Bonifacio after his unbelievably flukey week 1 where he pretty much praised the Marlins for acquiring him at the expense of Josh Willingham. Wonder if he’s eating those words now (or just moving on to the next high-BABIP fluke like he always does):

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  3. pm says:

    Erik, The Marlins are not paying for Johnson’s 2.2 Million salary. They are only paying a prorated minimum of 142,000 while the Nats are on the hook for the rest meaning the Marlins basically got him for free.

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    • Erik Manning says:

      I stand corrected. Thanks!

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      • Joe R says:

        And I’m probably being a nitpicking asshole, but don’t forget last season the Marlins possibly could’ve had Manny Ramirez if they didn’t try to snake an extra $2,000,000 out of the Red Sox. Hill’s doing a good job down there in Miami, save that Willingham deal.

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  4. Neil says:

    Joe, it may just be that Rizzo felt no one was offering proper value on his other hitters like Dunn and Willingham. He’s said that he doesn’t feel the team needs a full scale rebuild at this point. If Dunn can find a way to be just below average at first base, that will probably help to improve a defense that’s been one of the Nats’ big problems this year (not to mention help his trade value). Willingham/Morgan/Dukes will save a lot of runs compared to Dunn/Dukes/Willingham or whatever alignment Manny Acta ran out. For months, the Nats have been using a rotation with four rookies and one sophmore (John Lannan), which could see great improvements with the experience they’re getting this season, not to mention the possible addition of Strasburg. They need a bullpen before they have any hope, but those can be built quickly if done right. Bottom line, there’s no need to blow up the Nats Huntington-style.

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    • Travis L says:

      Can we please stop the bandwagon to move Dunn to 1B, and assume it’s a cure-all? By Fangraphs numbers, his UZR / 150 for 1B is -14.0, and for the OF it’s -13.7. By these measurements, he’s about as bad at first as the OF, and will cost the same number of runs. Given positional adjustments, he’s more valuable in the OF than in the IF.

      What I’d like to know is why some AL clubs don’t replace their horrible DHs by with a guy like Dunn. Read any article somewhere recently that showed that the average AL DH is producing at a shockingly low offensive level. Some major upgrade waiting to happen WRT Dunn.

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      • Will says:

        It’s wrong to use Dunn’s OF defensive metrics from 2001 to determine his defensive capabilities. Over the past three years, he’s never posted a UZR/150 better than -20 in any position in the OF. At 1B, he’s probably worse, but because of a small sample size it’s hard to tell for sure.

        Either way, Dunn destroys almost all his value just by playing defense. It doesn’t matter where he plays. The only way to get any value whatsoever out of Dunn is to put him in the DH spot.

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  5. lap says:

    “and the Marlins (!) acted as buyers at the trade deadline.”

    Not to be “that guy” but the marlins have never been sellers during the deadline, and have always if anything been buyers.

    Last year they nearly had Manny but still ended up with Arthur Rhodes

    06-07 was nothing but they also weren’t sellers.

    in ’05 they traded for a RP also in Ron Villone

    ’04 was Lo Duca

    ’03 was Urbina

    so in 4 out of the 6 years that the FO has been in charge, they have bought in July.

    I understand you’re not being offensive and what not, but I’m sure you can also understand that being a Marlins fan it does get annoying with all the overbearing things said about the team.

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