By Cody Heintz, Staff Writer
The signing of Nick Johnson was disaster of a move by the Yankees for four reasons. Nick Johnson adds no versatility to the Yankees defense or power or speed to the offense. Johnson can only play first base or designated hitter; he is injury prone as shown by him missing all of the 2007 season. What makes his signing even worse is that for one million dollars more the Yankees could have resigned the hero of the 2009 World Series: Hideki Matsui.
Johnson can only play first base so he will most likely be in the DH spot for most of the season like in 2002 where he played 50 games in the DH spot, second most on the team after Jason Giambi. Also Johnson is a defensive liability in the field at first base, which is ironic due to the fact that his uncle, Larry Bowa, was one of the best fielding shortstops of all-time. Johnson is a big downgrade defensively from Mark Teixeira. Mark Teixeira is a very durable player as he played in 152 games last year at first base with an extra 4 games as a DH. Most likely Johnson will play about 10 games at first base, which means he will most likely be the primary DH. And for those 10 games it would have made more sense to have a regular position player play first such as Nick Swisher or Jorge Posada.
Also Johnson might not be the everyday DH but might be a part-time player who is used as pinch-hitter. As the Yankees might want to rotate Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez into the DH spot to give the players a half-day off. This will also allow the youngsters Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli more playing time as last year they proved to be competent backups. If that is the case then it would have made more sense to keep Eric Hinske who had 7 homeruns with the Yankees in only 100 at bats and can play third base, first base and the corner outfield positions. Johnson's power would make him unsuitable in this role as he had only had 8 homeruns in 500 at bats last year.
Finally his speed and durability come into question. In 2007 he missed the entire season and was only able to play 38 games in 2008 because of a broken leg. Also the injury took away what remained of his already miniscule speed. He might end up batting second in the lineup if he ends up being the starting DH then he might clog up the base paths which might cost the Yankees runs as both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira still have decent speed.
The signing of Nick Johnson was a mistake for the Yankees as he takes up a roster spot that could be used to fill other roster needs or could have found better players to fill his role. The Yankees could have signed a third catcher and have Posada be the primary DH. With his performance last year Cervalli proved that he could be a starting catcher. Since catchers take a beating during the year then it would make since to have an extra on the bench. The Yankees could have also went after an utility player that could play multiple positions when needed. This would have helped since many of the core players for the Yankees are starting to show their age and could use extra days off during the year.
If Johnson is going to be the fulltime DH then it would have better for the team if they resigned Damon or Matsui. Matsui and Damon would have added power to the DH spot as both hit over 20 homeruns last year. Even though Damon has lost something defensively he could still fill in as fifth outfielder.
If Johnson was only going to be a part time player then the Yankees could have given his roster spot to Marcus Thames who is currently a non-roster invitee. Thames could serve as the fifth outfielder and as the primary back to Nick Swisher in right field and can also play first base. He also has more power then Johnson as he hit a homerun every 20 at bats while Johnson only hit a homerun every 62.5 at bats, which is important for pinch hitter or part time player. In conclusion the money and roster spot wasted on Nick Johnson could have been spent more wisely.