Cleveland Indians Sign Nick Johnson to Minor League Deal

Alex PainterContributor IIMarch 7, 2011

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 06:  First baseman Nick Johnson #20 of the Florida Marlins takes an at bat against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 6, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Nationals defeated the Marlins 12-8.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians have added another veteran free agent to the ranks in first basemen Nick Johnson. The deal was a minor league contract, but Johnson has a late spring training invite and an opportunity to make the big league club.

Johnson, a nine-year veteran who has played with the New York Yankees, Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins will continue rehabbing an injured wrist that was surgically repaired in February.

Over his career, Johnson has posted a .270 batting average with 91 home runs and 387 RBI. Injuries have plagued Johnson throughout much of his career, as he has never played in more than 147 games in a season and has played under 100 games five times.

However, when healthy, Johnson has proved himself viable with a bat in his hands. He has averaged 19 home runs and 79 RBI over a 162-game schedule, with an additional 34 doubles.

In Johnson's best season, his 2006 campaign with the Nationals, he hit .290 with 23 home runs and 77 RBI. He also notched 46 doubles and swiped 10 bases that season. 

With his injured status as of now, he will not be able to join the team on Opening Day. If he does join the Tribe at some point this season, his contract also includes an option for the 2012 season. 

Although this signing may seem irrelevant, Johnson could become a good option in the future. The Tribe have a history of signing older, oft-injured players and getting decent production out of them. 

Johnson is a natural first basemen, but has also logged significant time as a designated hitter, and could be a good contingency option down the road if Matt LaPorta or Travis Hafner are injured, or if Hafner's swollen contract is moved to another team.