Nick Johnson has passed his physical.
UPDATE, 12:15 p.m.: Chad here. Figured I would throw this up at the top of the post instead of beneath the press release.
One interesting moment from yesterday’s Javier Vazquez conference call came at the very end, when Brian Cashman was more or less asked why he didn’t simply bring back the pieces from the 2009 Yankees. If he wanted to, it seems Cashman could have simply stuck with Melky Cabrera, re-signed Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, and agreed to take a chance on Chien-Ming Wang’s recovery. Instead, there’s a good chance only one of those five will be back in pinstripes next season.
“Some players removed themselves from our ability to re-sign based on the contract discussions that were taking place,” Cashman said. “That happened both with players we had on this roster who elected free agency, as well as players in the current marketplace who we like and like a lot.”
It’s hard to hear or read those words and not think Cashman was refering to Damon. It seems the Yankees set a pretty firm limit on the amount of dollars and years they were willing to give their free agent left fielder, and they were able to hold that line because they had already reeled in Curtis Granderson, and because they had Nick Johnson on the hook. I know a lot of people prefer Damon — and it seems even more people prefer Matsui — but it’s hard to deny that Johnson can help this lineup with his ability to reach base. Injury is obviously a concern, but it’s not as though Damon or Matsui would have come without health concerns of their own.
Here’s the press release from the Yankees.
NEW YORK YANKEES SIGN DH/1B NICK JOHNSON TO ONE-YEAR CONTRACT
The New York Yankees today signed designated hitter / first baseman Nick Johnson to a one-year contract.
Johnson, 31, was third in the Majors in 2009 with a .426 on-base percentage in 133 combined games with Washington and Florida, trailing only American League MVP Joe Mauer (.444) and National League MVP Albert Pujols (.443). He placed sixth in the NL with 99 walks, while batting a career-high .291 (133-for-457) with 24 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 62 RBI.
The Sacramento native began 2009 with the Nationals, batting .295 (104-for-353) with six home runs, 44 RBI and a .408 on-base percentage in 98 games before being traded with cash on July 31 to the Marlins in exchange for left-handed pitcher Aaron Thompson. In 35 games with Florida, he hit .279 (29-for-104) with two home runs, 18 RBI, 36 walks and a .477 on-base percentage.
Johnson’s .402 career on-base percentage since his Major League debut in 2001 is eighth among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances over the span.
He had his best overall season in 2006 with Washington, batting .290 (145-for-500) and posting career highs in games played (147), plate appearances (628), at-bats, hits, doubles (46), home runs (23), RBI (77), stolen bases (10) and walks (110). His .428 on-base percentage was a career best and the second-highest single-season mark in Washington franchise history behind Tim Raines’ .429 in 1987. Despite the numerous career highs, Johnson’s season was cut short on September 23, 2006, by a fractured right femur, which forced him to miss the entire 2007 season.
Johnson, who is a left-handed batter, is a .292 (190-for-650) career hitter with 16 home runs and a .424 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching and a .266 (503-for-1,889) career hitter with 73 home runs and a .394 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching. He owns a .992 career fielding percentage, having committed just 48 errors in 5,719 career chances.
He began his professional career in the Yankees organization after being selected by the club in the third round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. In three Major League seasons with the Yankees from 2001-03, he batted .256 (197-for-769) with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 125 walks and a .376 on-base percentage. He posted a team-leading .422 on-base percentage in his final year with the club before being traded on December 4, 2003, with outfielder Juan Rivera and left-handed pitcher Randy Choate to the Montreal Expos in exchange for right-handed pitcher Javier Vazquez.
In eight Major League seasons with the Yankees, Montreal/Washington (2004-06, ’08-09) and Florida (2009), he owns a .273 career batting average (693-for-2,539) with 165 doubles, five triples, 89 home runs, 379 RBI, 27 stolen bases and 487 walks.
The Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 38 players.