Trade Speculation

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, January 16, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

There's a lot of speculation floating around about the Nick Johnson for Daric Barton rumors. Harper over at OMG had a good analysis this morning. Ed at Federal Baseball took a literary approach on the subject. Nats Journal discussed the topic as well.

Harper's initial impressions mirror my own. I'll let him explain...

It's always humorous to read the fans takes on potential deals because they tend to wildly overestimate the value of their own players while doing the opposite to the players on other teams. Nearly every player is worth a good prospect... unless it's your good prospect who should only be traded for a star.

Exhibit A is the reactions to the rumors of a Daric Barton for Nick Johnson deal. Where does it rank on the surface? It's a good deal for the Nats and a real risky one with immediate potential for the A's. But Nats fans seem hesitant, some asking for pitching to be added, and A's fans act like it would be the stupidest deal of all-time.

Ahhh, fans.

We have a guy in my fantasy league that you can't make a trade with because of the very mentality above. And it's natural to over-value your own players, because you were the one to buy them in the first place. But it's a GM's job to properly value these players for the team, situation, and money involved.

So I agree with Harper's conclusion, though I'll phrase it differently: the deal won't (shouldn't) happen because the Oakland A's aren't that stupid.

Daric Barton projects to be Nick Johnson. His minor league numbers and performance indicate that he's a good-fielding first baseman with superb on-base skills but marginal power for the position. Here's the kicker: he's just 23. Nick Johnson is 31. And an "old" 31 at that.

The A's would be crazy to trade several seasons of cost certainty for essentially the same player who is in the final year of a contract. And this is before considering the injury issue.

The A's are faced with is a "win-now" mentality, having acquired Matt Holliday for prospects (and some good ones) and Jason Giambi via free agency. It's the only reason they could even come close to justifying this deal. By acquiring Johnson (and they hope the 2006 version of Johnson), they hope that he could be the final piece in making a playoff-caliber team.

But not only should we look at the current injury Johnson is recovering from and his propensity for getting injured in the first place (is getting injured a "skill"?), we also have to consider the cumulative effect the injuries have already had on Johnson. David Ortiz had a very similar wrist injury to Johnson, opted against surgery, and played last year after the injury. Ortiz' production was hindered, no doubt, but he played and contributed to another division winner in Boston.

Now perhaps Ortiz should have had the surgery, and maybe when Johnson returns he'll be 100%, but any objective fan knows that at the beginning of last season that when Johnson was playing, he was not vintage Nick Johnson. He ran 9and walked, I'll add) with a noticeable limp and did not have the full range at first base that he has exhibited in years past.

Bottom line is this: Johnson has had a broken femur and damaged nerves/tendons in his wrist the last three years, on top of everything else he's gone through. He's an "old' 31. The cumulative effect has to catch up with him sooner than later.

If Jim Bowden is presented with this offer, straight up, and turns it down, he's crazier than any of us can imagine.