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Profiling Nick Johnson

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Moving on from Rich Harden, Nick Johnson is another player who fits right in the same sort of category as Harden and we have yet to profile him significantly. Like Harden, Johnson has been plagued by health issues in the past, but is coming off a decently healthy 2009. Also like Harden, Johnson has demonstrated significantly above average skills when able to take the field.

Nick Johnson hits. He's never failed to post above average lines for his park and league in his Major League career. On top of that, he's rated as a slightly above average fielder at first base as well by UZR. A full season from Nick Johnson would be expected to be between his 2006 year, a .290/.428/.520 line, and his 2009 .291/.426/.405 composite line. Throw in average first base defense and that's a four win player. That's about Johnson's 90th percentile year at this point in his career.

The risk with Johnson is his 2004, 2007 or 2008 seasons, three years that he combined for 360 at bats and 1.5 WAR. No matter what, you are going to be hedging your bets between those two extremes.

In addition to four-win upside, Nick Johnson brings in the same sort of offensive profile as Chone Figgins, a profile greatly needed on the Mariners lineup. The 4.6 pitches per plate appearance that Johnson averaged last year are unlikely to be repeated, but he consistently checks in at the 4.2-4.3 range. Stick him third in the lineup against right-handed starting pitchers and suddenly the prospect of leading off the game against Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins and Nick Johnson, all batting from the left side, becomes a potential nightmare for opposing hurlers.

Word on the street is that Johnson is still holding out for two guaranteed while teams are still in a one + option frame of mind, much as with Russell Branyan. As long as both remain unsigned, it gives the Mariners some leverage in order to sit back and wait for one, or both, to drop their demands for that second year.