Josh Johnson: Big Money Free Agent?
It is well known around the Toronto Blue Jays front office and fan base that one of the prized off-season acquisitions, pitcher Josh Johnson is a free agent at the end of the season. If this were 2009 or 2010, one could make the argument that Johnson would receive a contract as fat as one similar to Felix Hernandez or Matt Cain. Fast forward to almost the all-star break in 2013 and it is easy to see that Josh Johnson is not worth that much money. Heck, he may not even be worth an Edwin Jackson type deal with the way he has been pitching this year, a contract year.
Currently, Josh Johnson “JJ” is 1-3 with a 4.89 ERA and an ugly WHIP of 1.61. Not the kind of numbers you would expect from a guy who is 6’7 and was the ace of the Miami Marlins just last season. JJ has put together a solid career however, compiling a record of 57-40 with a great 3.25 ERA and a good WHIP of 1.25. In his best full season as a starter (2009, Josh went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 33 starts. In 2010 he started 28 games but was sparkling with a 11-6 record but an amazing 2.30 ERA. He got even better in 2011 (3-1, 1.64 ERA) but his season ended prematurely due to a shoulder issue which sidelined him until the 2012 season. 2012 was all about regaining shoulder strength for Johnson. He had a decent season for a Marlins team which finished well below expectations in 2012 but the effects of his shoulder surgery showed. His fastball pre shoulder surgery used to average 95 MPH and even topped out at 97-98 when he needed a little extra. Post shoulder surgery, it averages at about 93 MPH and tops out at 94-95 when he needs it. He also has always loved to throw his off-speed pitches (slider, curverball), both of which are nasty. It’s his fastball however which doesn’t seem to do what it used to for him and its hurting him.
JJ has only totaled 10 starts in 2013, mainly due to a triceps inflammation which kept him out of the rotation from late April until June 4th. Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance and makes many, including myself, salivating at having JJ in a Blue Jays uniform. Then, when Josh goes and throws meat, he looks downright awful. It has been pointed out by some experts who cover and follow the Blue Jays that Johnson seems to be afraid of throwing his fastball and relies more on throwing his off-speed stuff. This is where he runs into trouble. He tries to be too fine and get hitters out using his off-speed stuff, but he works backwards. His off-speed stuff sets up favorable hitters counts and when he finally throws his fastball to get back into the count, hitters mash it. If Josh Johnson begins to use his fastball and paint both sides of the plate to set up his off-speed pitches, he dominates. Hitters chase out of the zone when he works forwards, the fastball setting up his off-speed pitches.
The big topic of discussion I have had numerous times with friends or just thinking about it by myself is, should the Blue Jays let JJ walk or try to re-sign him. Josh said at the beginning of the season he does not want to talk extension during the year but if I am Alex Anthopoulos, I offer Josh an extension and leave it on the table for him to decide what to do. Based on how poorly he has pitched this year, maybe he decides to take a 2 or 3 year deal for some security. If he doesn’t take it, let him hit the market. Based on how this season has gone, he should not get his $100+ million contract he once definitely deserved. In my opinion, if Josh continues to have an up and down season, the Blue Jays will re-sign him at a fair price. A contract of around $60-$75 million is what I believe JJ is worth at this point. And if that’s the case, I think the Jays re-sign him. If he finishes the year strong and his value soars, the Jays let him walk and let guys like Drew Hutchison or Kyle Drabek take over for JJ and free up money elsewhere.
Personally, I am a huge fan of Josh Johnson. He is better than how he has pitched so far in 2013 but with the way its gone and how the market is for a big name starter like Johnson, the Jays would be smart to let Johnson walk if he commands the big money. Is Josh Johnson a big money free agent still? Or has his 2013 diminished his value to the point in which the Blue Jays re-sign him?
Josh Johnson’s worth in my mind: $60-$75 Million (4-5 years)
What kind of money do you see Josh Johnson getting in free agency and is he currently worth the big money contract he once deserved?