Trot Nixon : Should we be worried?

Trot Nixon burst on the scene only a tender three years ago. Five years ago he started amassing at-bats, but never got over the 500 at-bat plateau until 2001, when he finally created himself as a high 20-HR hitter with an affinity for an on-base percentage. He was headed towards the 30-HR mark last year, but got injured in the last month and missed 500 at-bats.

That means, over his 7-year career (first two as call-ups), he has had only two years over 500 at-bats. His best year, statistically, was the first year he went over 500 at-bats – last year comes close, but no cigar. He has not cracked 100 RBIs, 30 HRs, and it looks like his 100 run season in 2001 was a fluke.

That’s not to say Trot Nixon is not good. He is good – very good. His career averages gives you a .277 AVG/.366 OBP season with 25 HRs, 89 RBI, and 93 runs. He has a .979 career fielding percentage in right field, with a 1.82 range factor, and 22 career assists.

He is entering his 30th year on the planet, and signed a three-year contract extension, and will become a free agent in 2006, when he will be 33.

He is injured this spring training. Boy, he’s sounding like J.D. Drew and Geoff Jenkins, isn’t he?

Should we be worried if Nixon goes on the DL? I say no. We have Gabe Kapler as our backup, who should be starting for another team but decided to remain because he wanted to win. He is very underrated in my opinion. The loss of Nixon opens up a bench spot to either Brian Daubach, Tony Womack, Terry Shumpert, David McCarty (assuming he does not make it as a pitcher)…all capable of being the last man on the bench while Nixon heals.

But was it a good idea to give him a three-year contract? After all, he’s only had two seasons above 500 ABs. Is he worth 6.5 million a year in this depressed economy for a .280 average, 28 homeruns and 90 RBI? Maybe 4.5 million, but isn’t 6.5 million pushing it? For someone who is an question mark (even though he never has been a question mark)? There are people labeled injury risks when they really aren’t – so doesn’t the same apply for the opposite? There are people not labeled injury risks that really are – like Trot Nixon.

His physique doesn’t help matters. He has never been a muscular person and certainly not chiseled. He seems content to be a smooth athlete who has some pounds on him but plays hard. If Nixon committed himself to the regimen that Nomar goes under, Kapler … Nixon could be a lot better. Right now he is just an average major leaguer with heaps of talent – but cannot consistently stay above 500 at-bats a season. A full-time major leaguer gains about 500-600 at-bats.

Trot Nixon is a dirt dog, a hard player … but I don’t see his committment. I don’t see a fully healthy Nixon. I see someone who could lose a few pounds (but he shouldn’t – he loses plenty of pounds over the season, it’s just the appearance) and who could use some extensive time in the weight room.

If Nixon can get that bulging disk under control, and have a season like he had last year and amass more than 535 ABs (his career high), then we can talk about him deserving $6.5 million. Until then, he’s a $5 million player at best.

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