It seems like I'm the only one in the Nationals blogging community that thinks this trade is a bad idea. Of course, it is probably just a rumor without merit, but if it is true, I want to try to examine it further. Assuming either Rios or Wilkerson could play CF, we really only are comparing three players. Sledge (or Chavez) would probably round out the OF in either scenario. If that is the case, we would be comparing:
In other words, it is a straight swap on offense between Rios and Johnson and a defensive move that slides Wilkerson to first.
These are the relevant defensive stats for Wilkerson and Johnson.
Wilkerson - RAR2(1B) - 10 in 136 games, RAR2(LF) - 28 in 264 games, RAR2(CF) - 18 in 133 games (but most of that was in 2002)
Johnson - RAR2(1B) - 18 in 226 games
It seems Wilkerson is a below average LF and CF and an average 1B. Johnson also seems to be a pretty average 1B according to RAR2. That means the defensive loss at 1B is nonexistent. Rios doesn't have an adequate body of work to assess his defense in LF, but by most accounts it is pretty good. He did play more CF in AAA, but it remains to be seen if he has a future there. Right now, people are just speculating on this point without hard data.
That means, the trade should be evaluated on offense between Johnson and Rios. This is how they measure up:
Nick, 26 years old, .255/.372/.418 career line, 2003 career high line of .284/.422/.472.
Alexis, 23 years old, .286/.338/.383 career and 2004 line.
At age 23, Nick hit .243/.347/.402
They had rather different experiences in the minors. Rios was a toolsy player that suddenly had a break out year in AAA where he showed power after putting up average performances in the lower minors. Johnson, on the other hand had an amazing year at AA and was dominant at the lower levels. After a mysterious hand injury, however, he put up less than expected numbers in AAA.
Nick, obviously has an injury history that needs to be accounted for. However, his most recent injury seems so random and unrelated that it is hard to hold it against him. Still, he is less likely to play a full season.
In the end, I'm still going with Nick as the slightly better player/value. With Rios you do have more cheap years, but I just don't know if his power numbers are ever going to come. If his AAA numbers were legit (.352/.404/.521), he is clearly the better player, but in 426 MLB AB's, he has barely shown a hint of that power. Johnson, while unlikely to breakout much more, is still young, and if he could come close to repeating his 2003 numbers, would be a solid, core player for the Nationals.
The trade is probably fair on both ends and depending upon how you assess Johnson's health and Rios's power numbers, you can reach very different results. For now, I'm sticking with Nick. That is, until this year's PECOTA numbers come out.