Monday, June 8, 2009

Trade Market: 1B Nick Johnson vs. Aubrey Huff

Today we will take another look at some potential trade targets and figure out who your favorite team should be after. We will take a look at the first baseman market and two of the top names out there, Nick Johnson and Aubrey Huff.

Teams looking for a first baseman: New York Mets (need some help until Delgado can come back), Boston Red Sox (need a DH to replace Big Papi and his .596 OPS), San Francisco Giants (DEAD LAST in home runs), Atlanta Braves (Kotchman only has two home runs this year).

Huff and Johnson are prime candidates to be traded by July 31st. Both are in the last year of the contracts, play for last place teams, and offer quality offensive upside. Right now Johnson is considered the better value on the trade market, but it may be closer to equal then most people think.

Johnson has an age and money advantage over Huff. He's two years younger than him and makes $2.5 million less this season. Johnson also has a defensive advantage over Huff, with a career UZR/150 rating of 4.7, compared to Huff's -5.3 at first base. Also Johnson has been outhitting Huff at this point in the season. Johnson has gotten off to a hot start with a .325/.427/.460 line, while Huff has been inconsistent with a .263/.326/.451 line. To the quick glance it looks as if there is no contest when figuring out who to trade for, but lets dig a little deeper and see how the match-up looks then.

Huff is not with out his advantages as well. Huff has more positional flexibility that Johnson. While he's below average defender overall he can play some third base, and corner outfield. This could be attractive to an N.L. team to give them some roster depth. Also in 2009 Huff's UZR/150 rating is actually the same as Johnson's (-9.1), eliminating some of the consideration that he is a worse defender. Another thing that Huff has going for him is his durability. Johnson missed 2/3 of last season and all of 2007 due to injury. While he's been off the D.L. so far this season, his history knocks him down a few notches. The last advantage for Huff is he's a notoriously slow starter. While that seems illogical to call that an advantage, any team trading for him needs to worry about what he'll do over these last four months of the season, and not the first two. For his career Huff's OPS numbers by month are .730/.742/.844/.836/.942/.820. So while Huff's OPS may be in the .700's now, it should be much higher by season's end.

Even though Huff is due to make an extra $2.5 million on the season, it is really a negligible difference when you think about it. MLB contracts are paid out by month, so Huff makes $1.3 million each month and Johnson $910K. That is not a huge amount of savings, if two teams traded for them on July, 31st, they'd owe Huff $2.6 million and Johnson $1.8 over the final two months of the season. That $800K isn't a big gap when you think about it. Also one advantage that Huff has in regards with his impending free agency compared to Johnson's, is that Huff will be either a Type A/B Free Agent and Johnson won't. The compensation picks that an aquiring team would get for Huff are an added bonus.

When it comes down to it, both Huff and Johnson are quality players. Neither is a complete player, so its hard to say who is really more valuable. It all depends on what your team in looking for in a player. Johnson has the benefit that he's a bit cheaper and is always on base. He will likely be valued more by teams like the Boston Red Sox because he fits their line-up better. Huff on the other hand, has fewer red flags and offers a team more power. A team like the Giants make a lot of sense for Huff, if they want to make a 2nd half run.

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