O’s sign Nick Johnson and Luis Ayala (updated)


You chalk up another veteran signing for Dan Duquette, and it’s once again a guy that’s had some injury problems in the past: former Washington National Nick Johnson.

My Dad and I were in a group of people that had a season ticket package the first year the Nationals were in Washington, and Johnson quickly became my Dad’s favorite player. My Dad’s name is Nick…do the math. Nevertheless, Johnson’s been a solid player throughout his career, although his biggest challenge has been staying on the field. He’s had a whole plethora of problems from back issues to wrist; he played his most amount of games (147) with the Nats in 2006.

Before people get all bent out of shape about the O’s signing another veteran utility player, let me stress that this is a minor league deal that will come with an invitation to spring training. So barring an injury to Chris Davis, I would expect to see Nick Johnson starting the season at triple-A Norfolk. This is not to say however that he won’t end up being on the Orioles at some point, however I suspect that would only happen if he’s needed. The thing that stands out to me when looking at Johnson’s statistics is that he gets on base. He has a career OBP of .401. He last played in 2010, appearing in 24 games with the Yankees before getting hurt (and sitting out all of last season). Through those 24 games he had an OBP of .388, which was the only time since 2004 (with Montreal) that he had been under the .400 plateau. However again, that’s only 24 games worth of statistics.

If he was needed in Baltimore, Johnson is a guy that could potentially grab the bull by the horns. Dan Duquette has put an emphasis on getting players on the big league roster and within the organization who can get on base. As has been stressed, these are not the sexiest of moves. However statistics don’t lie, and this approach should equal more base traffic for the O’s, which should lead to more runs. Ideally Nick Johnson will share time at first base and DH with Joe Mahoney in Norfolk, however if he’s needed to do the same in Baltimore at some point he provides depth at both of those slots.

It was also announced this afternoon that the O’s had signed former NY Yankee Luis Ayala to what is thought to be a major league deal. Last year with NY Ayala went 2-2 with an ERA of 2.09. The question is whether or not this means that the Orioles’ re-flirtation with Koji Uehara is now over. Tough to say. One thing is certain, the O’s have an immense amount of pitchers, some of which could turn into trade chips. Is this a foreshock to a trade being made? Stay tuned!

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