Where could Omar Vizquel and Nick Johnson end up?by Evan Brunell
November 17, 2009
Last week, I mused about where Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Mike Jacobs could end up. Today, I bring you two more potential fits.
Earlier this season, we learned that Vizquel does not intend to return to Texas as he would rather play for a higher-profile team. At this point, I wonder if this is simply to get his name on the map to bolster his Hall of Fame chances. While that may be the motivation, he also will receive plenty of looks from contending teams who would love to get Vizquel's glove on the bench. I have a feeling it's going to come down to the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets or Philadelphia Phillies.
My guess here is that the Phillies win the sweepstakes. Why? Well, for one, the Phillies today noted that they're hunting for a player who can spell their middle infielders more often than in the past, given Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley (and likely whoever they land for third base) are entering their middle aged (for baseball) seasons.
Vizquel would represent short money and dollars while the Phillies could pitch Omar the idea of playing on a team that has two straight NL pennants, is one of the highest profile sports teams and could offer him over 200 at-bats given additional opportunities he could receive in the National Leauge.
Nick Johnson isn't exactly a great fielder, nor is he an iron man like Cal Ripken, Jr. once was. Johnson appeared in 133 games this past year which actually qualifies as his second most ever -- and he was hurt for a big chunk of the season too! He finally escaped Washington at the deadline, heading to Florida in a push for the playoffs. While Johnson registered an obscene .477 OBP with the Fish in 35 games, he was lost for most of the second half thanks to the flu and a strained right hamstring.
You can't even really call him a power hitter anymore. While Johnson used to be good for double figure home runs and doubles numbering in the 30s, Johnson's slugging percentage shrank to .405 this past year. Entering his age-31 season, it's not too late for Johnson to recapture his power stroke, especially if he lands in the right spot.
I'm calling Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. I always liked the D-Backs as a potential landing spot, and that feeling was only bolstered by the news that the Diamondbacks will increase payroll past last year's $73.5 million number. The 'Zona managing general partner, Ken Kendrick, says the club will have more than $10 million available.
So why Arizona? For one, the incumbent first baseman is Brandon Allen, acquired for Tony Pena earlier in 2009. Allen has prodigious home run power, but his cup of coffee would seem to suggest he has a bit more fine-tuning to do. Allen struck out 40 times in 104 at-bats, registering a .202/.284/.385 line with four home runs. Signing Johnson to a one- or two-year deal would be short enough that Johnson wouldn't stand in Allen's way if/when the Diamondbacks ever deem Allen ready for expanded playing time. Not only that, but Johnson's injury history would suggest that at some point, Allen would be called up to start. Johnson, then, perhaps represents Arizona's best option to bring Allen along at their own pace without truly sacrificing any major league at-bats they may hope he picks up -- while having a valuable first baseman in Johnson when healthy.
Johnson's power could see an uptick in Chase Field, while not breaking the bank, allowing the Diamondbacks to spend on starting pitching.
Given the Diamondbacks ranked 14th in walks (ninth in the National League), they could stand to improve upon those numbers. Johnson is the easiest way to do just that.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.