Fed City Flashback: Nick Johnson Signs Contract Extension
By Ricky Keeler
For today’s Fed City Flashback, we take you back to the year 2006. One of the Washington Nationals’ arbitration cases that year was first baseman Nick Johnson. Johnson had received $3.2 million in an arbitration case. On this date in 2006, the Nats decided to extend Johnson’s contract. The deal was for $16.5 million over the course of three years.
The Nationals had acquired Johnson back after the 2003 season when they were the Montreal Expos. They got Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera, and lefty reliever Randy Choate from the New York Yankees in exchange for Javier Vazquez. Vazuez had back-to-back seasons of 230+ innings pitched in 2002 and 2003 and had thrown 11 complete games from ’01-’03.
Of course, Johnson was on that 2003 New York Yankees team that went to the World Series before losing to the then Florida Marlins. At the time, the Johnson contract extension made sense for the organization.
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In 2005, Johnson hit .289 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI’s and played in 131 games. The games played stat is important when you consider he had played in only 73 games with the Expos in 2004. His on-base percentage of .408 was sixth in the National League that season.
If the 2006 season was any indication, that contract looked good for the Nationals to begin with. Johnson played in 147 games that season, hit .290 with 23 home runs and drove in 77 RBI’s, had the third most walks in the National League (110) and had a team high .428 on-base percentage (fourth in the NL).
Unfortunately, the 2006 season ended badly for Johnson. In a September game against the New York Mets, the first baseman collided with Austin Kearns in right field. The collision led to Johnson suffering a fractured femur in his left leg, thus ending his ’06 season and eventually his 2007 season. Johnson would come back in 2008, but the injury bug would bite him just 38 games into the season, he tore a tendon in his wrist, ending that season.
In 2009, Johnson played in 95 games for Washington and hit .295. This led to the Nationals making a trade within the division as they sent the first baseman to the Florida Marlins in exchange for left-handed pitcher Aaron Thompson. Thompson would never pitch in a game for Washington as the Pirates picked him up offer waivers in 2010.
When you take a look back at Johnson’s career, the injury history seems to be the first thing that comes to mind. That being said, the contract extension seemed worth it at the time the way he was hitting at the plate. It didn’t work out for Washington in the long run, but it would have great to see what Johnson’s career would have been like if he had stayed healthy.