Nick Johnson Readying For Spring Training

There’s quite a feature in yesterday’s Washington Post regarding Nick Johnson‘s return to action. It’s one of those feel-good pieces that documents his hardships and the tenacity with which he faced them. But apparently he has no remaining physical limitations, so he’ll get his shot in Spring Training.

How is this a trade rumor? Well, he’ll be competing with Dmitri Young for the starting first base gig. Both are signed through 2009, with roughly the same salaries. But there isn’t room for both of them on the Nats roster. Each has his pitfalls, making a trade difficult.

So what do you do if you’re Jim Bowden? Johnson is the team’s second highest-paid player, and Young is just a tick behind. Do you really let one of your top five highest paid players languish on the bench? A platoon doesn’t seem the answer. Young hit righties a ton last year, to the tune of a .903 OPS, while managing a .784 mark against lefties. This trend follows through his career. Johnson tends to destroy lefties and righties equally.

It’s hard not to give Johnson every shot to win the gig. He’s younger and has incredible plate discipline. We’re talking about one of the few guys in the league who can walk more than he strikes out. He was also a monster in his latest season, 2006, hitting .290/.428/.520 in 628 plate appearances. He walked 110 times that year, which is just an insane number.

But then where does that leave Young? This will definitely be a story to follow through Spring Training.


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