Should Sox trade Delcarmen for Nick Johnson?

MLB: APR 13 Phillies at Nationals
Peter Gammons went on Mike and Mike's ESPN Radio show this morning. Thanks to Hacks with Haggs, there is a transcript of the proceedings. An interesting tidbit:
Washington with their 2-16 bullpen are trying to move Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns and some of their semi-attractive veteran players to get relief pitchers. I know they offered Nick Johnson to Boston for Manny Delcarmen. That hasn't happened and may not until the Red Sox make a decision on David Ortiz.
This is a deal the Red Sox would instantly do if Big Papi was at his current level of production on July 31.

It's May 22, however.

It still begs the question: should the Red Sox do the trade? If so, when?
MLB: APR 13 Phillies at Nationals

Peter Gammons went on Mike and Mike’s ESPN Radio show this morning. Thanks to Hacks with Haggs, there is a transcript of the proceedings. An interesting tidbit:

Washington with their 2-16 bullpen are trying to move Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns and some of their semi-attractive veteran players to get relief pitchers. I know they offered Nick Johnson to Boston for Manny Delcarmen. That hasn’t happened and may not until the Red Sox make a decision on David Ortiz.

This is a deal the Red Sox would instantly do if Big Papi was at his current level of production on July 31.
It’s May 22, however.
It still begs the question: should the Red Sox do the trade? If so, when?
First, let’s get the local kid out of the way.
The Hyde Park native has really come through this season, checking in with a 0.95 ERA in 18 games. He’s struck out 15 and walked eight in 15 innings, giving up 17 hits.
Those numbers can’t support a 0.95 ERA, and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) agrees, saying Delcarmen’s ERA should actually be 3.34. It matches up nicely with last year’s 3.32 FIP (3.27 actual ERA).
Delcarmen’s career 3.25 ERA in 199.2 innings is nice to look at. As most Sox fans know, though, the 28-year old has struggled at time with fastball command and high-pressure situations. That seems to be turning around… or is it?
Delcarmen’s K/9 and BB/9 are not as good as they were last year. Heck, his BAA (Batting Average Against — different from BABIP) is higher, too. The one thing that’s saved him so far this year is his zero home runs on the year. Clearly, that won’t last.
The Red Sox have an embarrassment of riches on the pitching side of the equation, and to give up a reliever — perhaps the most fungible and volatile position in all of baseball — for someone who could help anchor the middle of the lineup… well… it’s a deal you should make.
The Nationals would love to make this deal. Their bullpen ERA on the year is 6.52, dead last in the big leagues by quite a wide margin. (Angels, 5.82.)
I follow baseball as a whole, and I can tell you that they’re tearing their hair out over in Washington. They’ve made countless pitching moves and played musical chairs with the closer’s position all in an attempt to get some measure of stability in the position over in Washington.
Delcarmen is what, the sixth man out of the bullpen? In Washington, he would be numero uno — the closer.
That’s why the Nationals would do the deal — they need bullpen help and they need it fast. Trading Nick Johnson makes sense for them because they have a glut of left-field/first-base types (Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn, Dmitri Young off the top of my head) and Johnson is a free agent after the year.
Makes sense, right?
The Red Sox could use Johnson, that’s for sure. The lefty, 30, is a former Yankee (who would join Mike Lowell and Ramon Ramirez in that category should he end up in Boston) who was traded to the then-Montreal Expos in the offseason of 2003 along with Randy Choate and Juan Rivera (now on the Angels) for Javier Vazquez.
Johnson has acquired a reputation — deservedly so — for being incredibly injury prone. Check out his games played each year in Expos/Nationals (or should I say Natinals?) threads respectively: 73, 131, 147, (missed year), 38. He’s in 40 games so far this year, so… progress?
So far this year, he’s hitting .338/.435/.473 with four home runs and 25 RBI. To push that over an entire season, that would be 16 home runs and 101 RBI. Perhaps not your power-hitter, but that average and OBP is mighty nice.
One way we could mitigate Johnson’s propensity for injuries is to –surprise!– put him at designated hitter.
Only problem is, we have a hulking beast who’s seen better days in that position. Yes, we’re talking David Ortiz — the one who may or may have not turned a corner the other day by finally hammering his first home run of the year.
I can understand why the Red Sox didn’t pull the trigger. To me, there are two major reasons why:

1. It’s too early to give up.
Look, Ortiz has meant a lot to the ballclub over these past several years. Are you telling me that through May 15 is enough time to throw in the towel on the season? Ortiz started slow last year as well but fashioned himself just fine as a No. 3 hitter the rest of the way.
If the Red Sox were to throw in the towel that quickly on Ortiz (putting aside for the moment statistics), they would send a tough message to players on their team and around the nation: perform now, or else.
After all, Mike Lowell suffered through an awful 2005 and has been one of the best third basemen in the game the last four years for us. Words can’t describe the play Lowell has done for us. Sure, some people think he’s overrated, but if you look strictly at the numbers, the dude has been valuable no way you slice it.
How about Dustin Pedroia? The pudgy, McDonald’s loving kid looked like he was going to wash out after a brutal September campaign in 2006. He trimmed some weight and showed up ready to take over the second base job in 2007 and his April was eye-gougingly bad. We all know what happened from there.
Heck, Carl Yastrzemski went almost an entire year without a home run.
It’s too late in the season to say it’s early, but… it’s not time to give up on Ortiz. If we’re at the end of June, then you can start saying that alternatives need to be considered. But now? No.
Reason two: Our pitching isn’t deep… yet. Might seem like an odd remark, but it’s true. Fortunately, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are turning it around. Justin Masterson is returning to the bullpen to solidify it, but despite Brad Penny’s numerous quality starts, his ERA stands at an unsightly 6.07 with a less than encouraging 5.00 FIP.
The rotation, for all its talent, has not performed up to snuff. But it’s coming. Dice-K will try to turn his season around when he takes the mound tonight. John Smoltz tossed three innings of shutout ball for the Greenville Drive last night. As we all know, Daniel Bard has hit the big leagues and Clay Buchholz is screaming “what else do I have to do!?” in his sleep every night. (Bowden sleeps peacefully because he’s 22 and has plenty of time.)
Once a roster crunch ensues, then you’ll see Delcarmen — or another reliever, perhaps — shipped out if, and only if, they need the person who would come into town. If David Ortiz can’t hit, I would do the Johnson/Delcarmen trade in a nanosecond and plug Johnson third in the order (to me, he’s a better option than J.D. Drew at the three-spot).
I say give it until Smoltz returns. If Ortiz’s one home run has proven a fluke, do the trade.
What do you think? Should the Red Sox do the trade? If so, when?

Categories: David Ortiz Manny Delcarmen Nick Johnson

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

17 Responses to “Should Sox trade Delcarmen for Nick Johnson?” Subscribe

  1. marcos May 22, 2009 at 10:29 AM #

    Not straight up. Id want Guzman too. And a player to be named later. Maybe the player to be later would be Strasburg. Joking about Strasburg.

  2. Joe Veno May 22, 2009 at 10:31 AM #

    Bring back Chris Carter! :)

  3. Ted May 22, 2009 at 10:54 AM #

    This is not a trade I would consider, but replace Nick Johnson's name with Adam Dunn's and we'd have a deal. Johnson is a very good hitter when healthy, which he is now but is not likely to be for long. Trading a valuable late-inning caliber arm for a guy who has spent more time on the DL than the field over the past few years is crazy. There is every possibility that the Sox would lose MDC and get nothing out of Johnson, not even a compensation pick. Terrible risk/reward.

  4. marcos May 22, 2009 at 11:02 AM #

    Id also want 20 year old catcher Derek Morris. .325 ave 9HRs and 1.039 OPS

  5. Ted May 22, 2009 at 11:22 AM #

    It would make more sense if the Nats sweetened the deal, though I'm not familiar with the catcher you mention. The thing is, the Nats have no leverage in a deal for Johnson considering the previously mentioned logjam at first/left field they have on their hands. What would make them think Theo would make this deal straight up is beyond me. Adam Dunn on the other hand would make a lot of sense for the Sox and makes no sense for the Nats who are years from contending. He'd be worth MDC and a few younger arms for the Nats to rebuild with.

  6. Evan May 22, 2009 at 11:59 AM #

    I think that giving up a reliever for an All-Star caliber 1B is something you should do twice on Sundays.

  7. Bob May 22, 2009 at 12:07 PM #

    I just don't think they should do it if only for the sole reason of Johnson's injury history.

  8. Evan May 22, 2009 at 12:37 PM #

    That's a concern for me as well but 1) DH 2) free agent after year.
    If he's the best hitter on the market and we need on don't you do it?

  9. M.A.G. May 22, 2009 at 12:56 PM #

    Well, with the embarrassment of riches we have in the pitching department right now, this looks like a perfect time to look for a trade.
    On the other hand, Johnson's injury history makes J.D. Drew looks like an iron horse.
    And, what do you guys think we can obtain for Penny?

  10. jvwalt May 22, 2009 at 1:01 PM #

    Nope, nope, nope. Neither Johnson nor Dunn, at least not right now.
    First of all, I'm not ready to conclude that Ortiz is washed up… although the evidence is mounting on that score. If you make the trade, he loses the majority of his at-bats, and it's virtually impossible for Papi to come back.
    Second, do we really need more offense? I'm not convinced of that.
    Third, I'd prefer to hold my cards until nearer the trade deadline. Who knows, a bigger need may emerge. What if Tek goes down? Or Bay? Or Pedroia? There's likely to be a rich trade market this summer; why not wait and see what develops?
    Regarding the specific players: Johnson is too high an injury risk. If Vegas ran an injury pool, Johnson would be the favorite. And Dunn… I don't want another DH unless he's an absolute world-beater at the plate. I want lineup flexibility. And please don't tell me he can play the outfield (even if we needed an outfielder, which we don't); I want good defense.

  11. marcos May 22, 2009 at 1:11 PM #

    I would love to have Jermaine Dye on my team. Kenny Williams loves trading people. In fact I'm fact I'm prdicting Dye will be a Red Sox. I would say Thome should be considered but Dye is more versatile.

  12. M.A.G. May 22, 2009 at 1:18 PM #

    And what about Matt LaPorta? Do you guys think the Indians would be interested in some of our pitching?

  13. Bob May 22, 2009 at 2:18 PM #

    yeah but I doubt Shapiro gives up LaPorta. I think more likely the Sox could pry someone like Jhonny Peralta or Victor Martinez, maybe even Hafner but if they're rebuilding why trade a young blue-chip DH like LaPorta. They've underperformed, but Shapiro isn't dumb

  14. jimla May 22, 2009 at 2:31 PM #

    I dont think Nick Johnson is the answer. Adrian Gonzalez is made for fenway not for PETCO. Why not give up pitching for a young home run hitter? Move Youk to 3rd and put Mike Lowell and Papi in the DH role depending on the lefty righty match-up thing. This is the right move.

  15. marcos May 22, 2009 at 4:38 PM #

    Well some guy from WEEI says the Sox turned down the deal. Mlbtraderumors.com

  16. Evan May 22, 2009 at 5:08 PM #

    Indians are gonna have a glut of OF next year… they definitely need to trade an OF or two.

  17. Gerry May 22, 2009 at 8:49 PM #

    Agree with you and JVWalt. First of all, it's still too early to give up on Papi. Send him to DL and Florida and Pawtucket until he gets it right. If he can't, that's a different story. If he can, the Sox still have the best DH in baseball. In the meantime, the roles can be filled or shared with Bailey, Baldelli, Carter, Van Every, even JD Drew.
    If the Sox need a new DH, and I'm betting we don't, then this should be, like Papi, a TOP hitter in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, RBI, R, as well as a great clubhouse, media and fan favorite . . . the whole package just like Papi. Oops! There is No One else who can do that? OK, then this person should be the best hitter available, a good guy, and healthy. If the Sox are going to give up precious and rare young talent, it has to be for the very best available to substantially improve the team. A. Gonzales (maybe a deal which would include Peavy would make it happen, and make losing a Buchholz & Bard more palatable?) or expatriates H. Ramirez or Carlos Pena???? We had a shot at Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson is not in Papi's league. Papi's repacement must be in Papi's league. Otherwise, it's a waste of resources.