Nats Active at Trading Deadline

The 2009 MLB trading deadline has come and gone, with several contenders attempting to fill some crucial holes as the race to the playoffs intensifies. The Phillies picked up reigning AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee from the Indians, who joined the team only to throw a stellar complete game on Friday night. The Cardinals added a solid bat and some added protection for Albert Pujols in Matt Holiday, and the Red Sox added C/1B/DH Victor Martinezz to push their already potent offense to the next level.

The Nationals stayed active at the trading deadline, swapping veteran first baseman Nick Johnson to the Marlins for AA pitcher Aaron Thompson, a former first round pick of the Marlins. Thompson, who had posted a 5-9 record this season with Jacksonville, the Marlins AA-affiliate, posted a 4.11 ERA in 20 starts. Additionally, and for what its worth, Baseball America voted his changeup the best in the Marlins system.

I was surprised the Nats didn't push for higher level talent in the swap for Johnson, one of the longest tenured Expos/Nationals. Johnson was having a solid year at the plate for the Nationals this season, having overcome significant injuries which cut into his playing time over the past few years. Johnson, who will become a free agent in the ofseason, is seeking a 2-year deal in the neighborhood of $16 - $18 million. Whether he gets this is something that remains to be seen. I see Johnson moving to a small to mid-market AL team (maybe the A's, Royals, or Mariners) in the offseason, where he can split time as a first baseman and DH. If he stays healthy, Johnson can be a solid contributor for a number of clubs, with his solid defense and patient plate approach.

The departure of Johnson means that Adam Dunn will become more or less the everyday first baseman. It also meant the call-up of Elijah Dukes to regain one of the corner outfield spots, possibly platooning with Willie Harris.

In addition to the Johnson trade the Nats swapped reliever Joe Beimel, who had played a number of roles this season, including 8th inning setup man, occasional closer, and stop-gap, to the Rockies for two minor league pitchers and cash. Probably a smart move for a guy who the Nats signed to a one-year deal just before the start of the season.

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, we now wait to see what happens with the next big question in Nationals personnel moves, whether the Nationals can sign super-pitching prospect and number 1 overall prospect Stephen Strasburg.

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