Bring Nick Johnson to Citi Field

An article by posted on September 13, 2009

A few weeks back I wrote a column and I briefly mentioned the fact that I believe Nick Johnson would be a great fit for the Mets in 2010. I’m going to take that further today. 

Assume for a second that everybody’s fantasy of acquiring Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez is not going to happen. Even if it does happen, the price tag for both of them will be astronomical. To me that leaves the Mets with the following options at 1B in 2010. 

They can either re-sign Carlos Delgado on a wing and a prayer that he’s healthy enough to return to his 2008 form at the age of 38. I just can’t sign off on this. I’m sorry but the Mets need to do something to change the culture of this team, and the first thing they need to do is let Delgado play somewhere else. If he hits 40 bombs in San Francisco next year, fine by me. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. 

They can keep Daniel Murphy at 1B all season long and hope that at age 25 Murphy has learned enough about playing in the big leagues that he can be an adequate first baseman. The thing with Murphy to me is, he could be a valuable player, but he was asked to do too much, too soon. Not everybody is a superstar at age 24, and Murphy was basically asked to live up to that type of potential. He’s a good ball player, but he needs to take a step back. Murphy could be more valuable to the Mets as a 26 year old player who backed up a legit starting 1B for 2 years. 

The third option to me is signing Nick Johnson to be the first baseman for the NY Mets. This option not only brings a lot to the current makeup of this team, but it also allows them to keep Murphy and work with him to get him to be the player they know he can be. The only, and I mean the ONLY reason not to bring Johnson into this organization is his injury past. 

To be fair, some of his injuries were just a case of bad luck. You can’t label a guy injury prone when he collides with an outfielder at Shea Stadium and breaks his femur. You can’t call a guy injury prone when a ball takes an absolute wicked hop and breaks his cheekbone. Back injuries, sure I’ll buy those. Remind me again, when Vlad Guerrero had his back problems and the Mets avoided him, how’d that work out? Vlad won which award the following year? Oh right! Most Valuable Player. 

Here’s the problem I have with that though. When people argue he is too injury prone, they are implying that the Mets, Nick Johnson, and his agent don’t know that. I don’t think Johnson is going to hit the market and demand an insanely huge contract. Take a look at last year’s market, there is nothing that says a 1 year contract isn’t an option when it comes to Johnson. 

If Nick Johnson does get injured, the Mets still would have Daniel Murphy and possibly Ike Davis available to come up for a replacement. 

It’s a gamble, I admit that. It is however a gamble that will cost the Mets the least amount of sacrifice at the end of the day. 

Here’s why Nick Johnson is a great fit for the Mets in 2010. 

Let’s keep in mind also that Johnson has over 400 AB’s this year. Johnson is THIRD in the Major Leagues in OBP. Some devalue OBP, but you can’t score runs unless you have players on base. The impact of Johnson batting third in front of the likes of Carlos Beltran and David Wright would be amazing. You want somebody to teach Daniel Murphy how to play 1B and be a patient hitter at the same time? Johnson’s your guy. 

Among qualified hitters, Johnson sees the third most pitches per at bat. He’s a grinder. He makes pitchers work, and 42% of the time he ends up on base due to it. You simply cannot find that kind of player without paying an enormous contract. If Johnson takes a decent financial deal at let’s just say two years, it’s a no brainer to me to take that chance!

Johnson also has played in NY before, and if you read Joe Torre’s book, you read that Torre wanted to keep Johnson rather than acquire Jason Giambi. You know he can handle it in NY, which is always a big question mark for any high priced free agent coming to play here for the first time.  

If Johnson’s negotiations go as I expect them to, he will not cost the Mets an arm and a leg, and will allow the Mets to keep their much needed minor league prospects, while also allowing them to work the free agent market for a left fielder and a pitcher. He is the most talented and most cost effective 1B option the Mets have for 2010 without unloading the farm system. 

Finally, I’ll make you a deal. If the Mets do sign Johnson, and he ends up not earning his paycheck due to injury, I’ll write up a story about how you were right and I was wrong. However, if Johnson has a season where he gets over 400 AB’s, and is on base over 40% of the time hitting in front of David Wright and Carlos Beltran, you better expect to read an I told you so column!

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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