Just minutes before the 4:00 PM EDT deadline, Larry Bienfest and the Marlins front office made a move that very well might have saved any hope of an NL Wild Card berth into the playoffs. In a deadline trade they quietly acquired Nationals first basemen Nick Johnson in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Aaron Thompson.
Although prone to injury, the 30-year-old Johnson will bring a consistent bat with some power along with his exceptional .408 OBP to Florida. He has lost quite a bit of pop in his bat over the past few years but he can still run into a few big flies while driving in runs at the top of a lineup.
With the Nationals Johnson was hitting .298/.408/.402 with 6 HR and 44 RBI. The big thing about Johnson is the ability that he posses to get on base, which should pay dividends with the Marlins.
Johnson is expected to play first base and hit second in the Marlins lineup, in front of guys like Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu who can drive in runs consistently. This should add another layer to the Marlins offense, which has struggled so far this year with getting runners on and leaving the stranded.
Johnson’s arrival also means that the bottom part of the lineup shouldn’t have as much pressure to drive in guys in scoring position like Hanley and Cantu who reached when there wasn’t anyone on base.
Johnson also posses a very good glove at first.
Jorge Cantu will now play third base, leaving current third basemen Emilio Bonifacio to fill a utility role much like Alfredo Amezega did before going on the DL. Cantu’s defense isn’t any better than Bonifacio’s, so the upgrade from the trade is purely on the offensive side of the spectrum here.
Johnson will surely be an improvement over Bonifacio in the two hole.
In this trade the Marlins acquired a reliable bat without sending any of their top-level prospects or adding any substantial salary. Although, they were in talks for the biggest names at the deadline the Marlins silently improved their offense without giving any pieces of their future.