Breaking News: Nationals Trade Nick Johnson to Marlins for Minor Leaguer

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2009

PHOENIX - MAY 08:  Infielder Nick Johnson #24 of the Washington Nationals in action during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 8, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks 5-4.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Just minutes before the trade deadline, the Washington Nationals made their big move.

Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson has been traded to the Florida Marlins for AA pitcher Aaron Thompson. The Nationals have also agreed to pay the remainder of Johnson’s $2 million contract. 

Johnson, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the year.  He is hitting .295 for the year with an on-base percentage of .408, which ranks sixth in the National League.  He is also sixth in the NL in walks with 66.

The Nationals, stacked with first basemen and corner outfielders, deemed Johnson as surplus going forward by interim General Manager Mike Rizzo.  For the Nationals, this means that Adam Dunn could be his immediate replacement at first base.  The deal also could make way for Chris Marrero, hitting .302 in high-A Potomac, to start at first in 2010.

Johnson will give Hanley Ramirez some much needed protection, as he is projected to hit second for the Marlins.  The deal will move current Marlins' first baseman Jorge Cantú back to third base.

Thompson, 22, has spent the last two years in AA, this year at AA Jacksonville, where he has compiled a record of 5-9 and a 4.11 ERA. 

The 6’3’’, 195 lb. left-handed starter has struck out 75 guys and walked 43 in 114 innings this year.  In 2008, at AA Carolina, Thompson went 2-5 with a 5.62 ERA.

He was taken in the first round in the 2005 MLB Draft with the 22nd overall pick, a compensatory pick from losing Armando Benitez to free agency.  From 2005 to 2007, Thompson breezed through three levels of A ball, with ERAs of 3.13, 3.63, and 3.37, respectively.

Before his struggles at the AA level, he was rated the Marlins' eighth-best prospect in 2007 and has the best changeup in the Marlins' system.

Over the last two years, Thompson has struggled with his control, allowing over one hit per inning in 20 starts this year and 111 hits in 81 2/3 innings in 2008.

Scouts have likened his finesse pitching style to Tom Glavine. Thompson throws an 87-91 mph fastball, but relies as much on his changeup, slider, and curveball to get guys out.  His pinpoint accuracy and ability to throw all four pitches are the strongest parts of his game.

It remains to be seen whether lingering in AA will force Thompson to the bullpen instead of his projected place as a starter for the Nationals.

(Note: The Nationals also dealt reliever Joe Beimel around 3:20 EST to the Rockies for two minor leaguers.)