So now that the Nationals have made the big move by signing Adam Dunn, the question remains: what will the Nationals do with first baseman Nick Johnson? At one time, Johnson was thought of as the Nationals first baseman of the future because of his ability to get on base and great defensive ability, but injuries have derailed his once promising career. Johnson has not been healthy since 2006 and has only gotten 500 ABs in a season once. Not good.
With the signing of Dunn, Johnson will be relegated to the bench. Even though Dunn played left field for the Reds, he probably will be moved to first base because the Nationals already have something like 14 outfielders (slight exaggeration). The signing of Dunn ultimately will leave Johnson on the outside looking in.
Johnson is owed $5.5 million this season and will be a free agent after this season. It's pretty clear at this point that the Nationals will not be looking to re-sign Johnson after this season because they will already have Dunn. It's obvious that Johnson is no longer viewed as a long term solution for the Nationals.
So there are two schools of thought:
1. Trade Johnson
-Johnson is not likely to get any playing time with the Nationals this season and it would be best for both parties if the Nationals try to move Johnson. The Nationals will probably not get much back in return and might even have to pick up some of Johnson's salary, but anything the Nationals can get back in return will be more valuable in the future than Johnson will.
I would expect the Mariners, Angels, Athletics, and maybe even the Giants to be interested.
2. Hold Johnson
-Interestingly enough, holding onto Johnson might actually put the Nationals in a power position down the road. Many rosters are set and most teams have maxed out their payrolls, which means that there would not be many suitors interested in Johnson.
If the Nationals hold onto Johnson for the first few months of the season, it's inevitable that some team will experience injuries or poor performance at first base. If he proves to be healthy, Johnson could be an attractive option for a team in need.
The Nationals could get more value for Johnson in a few months than they would right now.
In addition, if the Nationals are serious about competing this season (which I doubt), then it would certainly help them to have as many talented players on their roster as possible.
I think the Nationals need to focus on the future even with Adam Dunn on board. The focus should be acquiring as many assets as possible to compete down the road. If Bowden can use Johnson to acquire some young talent, then he has to do it.
No matter which option GM Jim Bowden chooses, I just hope that Johnson is able to stay healthy and finds a good place to play. Johnson is one of my favorite players to watch and plays the game the right way and it would be an absolute travesty if this guy cannot reach his potential because of injuries.
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