Sunday, January 09, 2005

Johnson and Wilkerson

There's still not a whole lot going, which may explain this content-free article from Baseball Prospectus. When it comes to BP, content-free is actually an improvement over their usual stance - full-on snark - but it's still disappointing. I was expecting something really hateful and half-informed (or snide but well-informed, if it were Chris Kahrl), and it was quite a let-down to read the fluff that was actually provided. The article's available for non-subscribers, so you don't have to worry about any of your money lining the pockets of that bastard Dayn Perry. Anyway, here's a blurb about Nick Johnson:
Not that we get our drawers in a pinch over players who strike out a lot, but Nick Johnson had cut way down on his strikeouts from 2002 to 2003, only to increase his rate with the Expos last year. While it wasn't to 2002 levels, it was a jump from last year:


2002: .259
2003: .176
2004: .231
These are not drastic fluctuations, but he had more walks than strikeouts in 2003, something he couldn't repeat last year. Anytime somebody who struck out 98 times as a rookie gets to the point where they've got more walks than strikeouts, then that's a good sign. Maintaining it would be even better, of course.
That's it?! I have a load of questions about Johnson, more than I have about any other National. Such as:
  • Is Bowden going to trade him?
  • If he does, will we get anything good? How about Mike Cameron?
  • Will Johnson ever be healthy for a full year?
  • What's he going to make in arbitration?
  • Even if he is healthy, will he be any good? He put up a .251/.359/.398 line in 2004 and slumped drastically as the season went on, and I don't know why. Nagging injuries? Disinterest? Hangover? That's the kind of thing I'd like to know before I decide what kind of names I want to call Bowden when he makes the trade.
You may have even more; Johnson is a riddle surrounded by a mystery wearing ill-considered facial hair. He has a chance to be the Nats best hitter if he can approximate his 2003 performance (.284/.422/.472), but he has just as good a chance to be complete waste, on account of either injuries or plain suckiness. Whoever wrote that Baseball Prospectus piece doesn't attempt to answer any of these questions, and I wonder why he even bothered to write what he did.

Brad Wilkerson, who appears to be everybody's favorite Nat, avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal for $3.05 million. Wilk's spent three full years in the majors, and he's been a solid player in all three. 2004 was his best year, an incremental improvement on his '03. That $3 million should be a real bargain. Here's something that bugs me, and the Transaction Guy is only the latest to do it:
I have Wilkerson pencilled in as the Nats’ centerfielder, but if they move Nick Johnson (something they’ve been trying to do all winter) then Wilkerson will move back to first.
Consider this: Montreal's manager in 2003 played Endy Chavez in center field 135 times, even though he couldn't hit and Wilkerson was on the roster. In 2004, the Expos manager put Chavez out there in 127 games, and Wilkerson played center only 18 times. Endy Chavez is still on the roster, and Frank Robinson is still the manager. I have no idea why anyone thinks that Robinson is suddenly going to start reading Bill James abstracts and discover that Chavez shouldn't be starting at any position. Wilkerson will be in left field or at first. He will not be a regular centerfielder.

I mentioned Mike Cameron above. It looks like the Mets are about to sign Carlos Beltran, which could impact us a couple of ways. My attainable dream of finishing ahead of the Mets in 2005 is looking a lot less attainable, for one thing. Also, the Mets are apparently going to move Mike Cameron to right field, and they'd be better off trading him. Cameron is a decent hitter, not a great on-base guy but with some power, but his real value is defensive. He's considered one of the handful of greatest defensive centerfielders out there, and putting him in right wastes his greatest talent and gives the Mets a subpar bat for a corner outfield position. The Mets are in need of a first baseman (assuming they don't sign Carlos Delgado), and we have one our GM seems not to want. I don't think Nick Johnson would be enough to get Cameron by himself, and Tomo Ohka would seem to be the most likely other guy to be traded, since he doesn't want to re-sign for what Bowden wants to give him. Should Bowden do Johnson and Ohka for Cameron? I can't decide. Both players coming from the Nats are undervalued in one way or another, and Cameron is six years older than Johnson. However, it would help our remaining pitchers to have a player of Cameron's prowess in center, and it might save the Nats money, depending on what Johnson and Ohka get in arbitration and assuming no cash or other players changed hands (I'm having hard time finding the terms of Cameron's contract. He made $4.3 mil last year, but it might go up for the next couple). Cameron had surgery this winter and is out until May, but that means we get a month of Endy in center, as opposed a whole year if we don't get Cameron. Basically it comes to what you think Johnson's going to do the next few years.

11 comments:

Yuda said...

According to Dugout Dollars, he's slated to make $6M in 2005, $8M in 2006 and has a $6.5M team option ($500k buyout) for 2007.

Ryan said...

Yeah, but Dugout Dollars said he made 6.5 in 2004, when ESPN and Baseball Reference said 4.3 for '04, so I don't know what's going on.

Anonymous said...

If you move Johnson AND Okha, doesn't that increase the pressure to avoid arbitration on Armas and hope he remains healthy?

Yuda said...

No, his DD says his salary cap hit in 2004 was 6.5 -- it lists his salary as 5.0, which includes the actual salary plus some percentage of his signing bonus, most of which, I believe, was deferred.

Ryan said...

Yuda - that is damned confusing. DD really shouldn't say "cap," because there isn't one. I defer to your interpretation.

Anonymous - trading Ohka does leave a pretty gaping whole in the rotation, but I think we need a CF more than a pitcher, and I figure that if Bowden is going to trade Johnson anyway, which I think he is, it would be nice to get something we can use.

Yuda said...

Well, there is a soft salary cap, of a sort. If you break it, you have to pay the luxury tax. So when you look at the page, the numbers on the left are for computing the luxury tax responsability, the numbers on the right shows the actual amount of money due to the player in each season (including pro-rated signing bonuses, not including deferred money, etc).

Basically, there's a different calculation to prevent backloaded contracts or deferred money being used to skirt the luxury tax. And, yes, it's horrifically complex.

JammingEcono said...

I think dealing both Johnson and Ohka for Cameron would be giving up a bit too much on the Nats' side of the deal. However, I could see the Mets taking a one-for-one Johnson for Cameron deal since it would free up salary room for the Mets to make a run at Sosa.

Ryan said...

Yuda - I blame my browser for this whole mess. I was using FireFox and for some reason not seeing the numbers on the right. Now I see them. I guess Cameron for Johnson/Ohka wouldn't save much if any cash this year, but I'm sure Cameron is cheaper in '07 than those two will be, what with arbitration and free agency and all.

Econo - I don't think that would be enough. Cameron did lead the Mets in homers last year. If the Mets would take Johnson for Cameron straight up, I'd do it, no question.

Olivier said...

I really, really don't think the team is going anywhere this year. That's why I just don't think it is sound to trade for a guy like Cameron right now. I mean, I'd rather have stuck Izturis at SS, Harris at 3b and Church in CF for two or three month just so one could see what happens. Izturis is gone, and Harris gives Bowden the possibility to trade Vidro. As for CF, I'd rather see Church get the place; even if he's an average defender (I'd wage he's at least better than Wilkerson), I think he can be a decent hitter.

If Bowden should shoot for anybody right now, I think it's Javier Vazquez. Randy St Claire is a pretty good pitching coach (go ask Livan), and he and Vazquez had a very, very good relationship. If it's for Vazquez, Okha and Vidro are expandable. I mean, financial flexibility has it's value in itself.

But Kevin Brown or Mike Cameron? I think it's just not worth it. Keep the money to go after the mid-seasons salary-dumps with the new ownership's approval.

Brian said...

Rather than a two team deal, why not use this as a springboard to a three team deal. Send Nick Johnson + whatever to New York, Send Cameron to a third team who would in return send a SP to the Nationals. Off of the top of my head, maybe Seattle. They have Ichiro, Winn, and a platoon of Jeremy Reed and Raul Ibanez. Perhaps inquire to the availability of Bobby Madritsch (a young lefthander) or Gil Meche (a righthander). Cameron is an OK player but the Nats really need to focus on arms.

Ryan said...

I'm intrigued by the Vazquez idea and three-way idea. A couple places are reporting that Arizona is interested in Cameron, and Vazquez would be happier back East - how 'bout a Nats/Mets/D-Backs deal? The problem is that Javier makes over $10 million per for the forseeable future. That's a lot more than the Nats have on hand or could comfortably clear from the payroll (at least two of Ohka, Johnson, and Armas would need to be moved, I guess), and I don't see us giving up anything valuable enough to have another team pay a good chuck of Vazquez' salary.