Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Odds of a Josh Johnson Contract Extension

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He's just a good old boy from Minnesota ... youngest of five boys, and he grew up a fan of the Minnesota Twins. And incidentally, he's also in need of a contract extension.

I didn't know very much about Josh Johnson before his sit-down interview with Barry Davis, but he came across very likable and honest in his interview last month. JJ was very candid and extremely self-aware of baseball not only as a game, but as a business.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend watching Sportsnet's full 18 minute interview with Josh Johnson as it touched on a lot of issues; from Johnson's initial reaction to the trade, to acclimatizing to living in Canada, to falling in love with baseball during the 1987 World Series parade in his hometown of Minnesota.

There was one thing I picked up on during the interview that was alluded to time and time again, and that was Johnson's desire to win. He mentioned it on multiple occasions and didn't really mince words when it came to expressing his ambition to play for a contender.

While JJ did discuss he would be open to a contract extension with the Blue Jays, I got the sense that he wasn't planning on signing long term any time in the near future; which almost eliminates any chance he would ink an extension with the Blue Jays prior to the start of the season.

The initial question of "will Josh Johnson sign an extension?" will inevitably lead to "for how much?" and "how long?" As a comparison, here's a list of the most recent and biggest contracts delved out to starting pitchers.



Rest assured that if Josh Johnson has a solid 2013 season, he will be asking for top dollar on the open market. JJ will be among the upper echelon of starting pitchers and would be justified to command Zach Greinke and Cole Hamels kind of money.

While most baseball players opt to go where the money is, Josh Johnson strikes me as a very competitive player who wants to win above all else. I mean, he grew up as the youngest of five brothers ... of course he's competitive.

The Blue Jays could very well offer him a very attractive extension, but if it doesn't provide JJ the best potential to win, he may just walk next season. That's why the future of Josh Johnson's career really depends on what happens on the field with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013.

If the team has a great first half, then perhaps Josh Johnson takes a leap of faith and negotiates a deal midseason. However, the much more likely scenario is Johnson waits until the conclusion of the 2013 season to decide whether the Toronto Blue Jays provide him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

The allure of the almighty dollar is one that must be extremely attractive to prospective free agents, but ultimately I think many players would prefer the opportunity to win a championship ... especially for long-tenured players like Josh Johnson who haven't had a chance to experience October baseball.

One really can't blame Josh Johnson for wanting to go to a contender, though. After all, he spent ten years within the Miami Marlins organization and not once did he get a shot at the playoffs. At this point in his career, JJ has more than earned his right to play where he wants for whichever reason he desires.

Of all the players that came over from Miami in the trade, the contract situation with Josh Johnson is definitely the most complicated. With the bright lights of free agency just one year away, Johnson could test the open market next offseason for a very large payday.

Alex Anthopoulos confirmed the blockbuster trade with the Marlins initially began with discussions surrounding just Josh Johnson. In retrospect, it's a tad bit curious as to why the Blue Jays would go after a starting pitcher who is only under team control for one more season.

AA certainly must be confident about getting JJ extended before his contract runs out, otherwise why would Alex target a pitcher who might walk a free agent just one year later?

Make no mistake; this is all before Josh Johnson has thrown a single pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays. It would be a little presumptuous to not only expect Johnson to sign a contract extension sight unseen, but for the Blue Jays to even extend him a contract extension one before Opening Day.

With a slew of injuries in his past, there are some questions as to the durability of Josh Johnson. While it might be cheaper to sign him to an extension now, the safer bet for both parties would be to wait until season's end to reassess the situation.

With the exception of Josh Johnson, Toronto's entire starting rotation is locked up through the 2015 season. So it's not imperative the Blue Jays lock up Josh Johnson as well, but it wouldn't hurt to have another ace in the hole.

7 comments:

  1. I think I'm with you. With the other 4 locked up for a while, there's not much urgency for the Jays to lock up JJ as well. I don't think JJ is capable of a season to put him at Greinke money, but I don't forsee a shortage of suitors for his services starting in 2014 and believe he will be paid very well - but likely not by the Jays.

    As for the Jays, if they don't extend him, they may be able to score a compensation pick upon his departure. To fill that rotation spot next offseason, look elsewhere for something more affordable by FA or trade, if not internal options like Hutchison, Drabek, Jenkins, Happ, etc... and be OK.

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    1. After their injuries, I think a lot of people have already forgotten about Drabek & Hutchison - so even if just one of them comes back and ends up being even just a little better than replacement level, the starting rotation would still be in decent shape.

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    2. I haven't forgotten about Hutchison nor Drabek (although more often then not I'd like to forget about Drabek).

      I have a firm belief that Hutchison will carve out a decent MLB career for himself so the prospect of Johnson bolting for more affluent pastures isn't so horrible to me. Would Hutchison be as good as Johnson? Almost assuradly not... but could he put in a servicable middle-of-the-road performance while Johnson's money is reinvested into other parts of the org so as to make up the difference (while collecting a comp pick)? Sure... I could see that.

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  2. First of all, suggesting that JJ's money would be put back into the team is a stretch. If you think Rogers just poney'd up this money out of their own pocket, you're crazy. The money spent was basically from MLB. But that wasn't my point:

    For all intents and purposes Drabek will take the Doc rout and rebuild from square one, its unlikely he will be seen for another year. Hutch IS Happ, not a bad 5 but a much better 6-7 on a team with WS aspirations and a smaller window to win then some seem to believe.

    There are no bats in the system and its a little presumptuous to assume Jose ages into Pappi type numbers gracefully with the way he draws so much of his power from his hips.

    JJ will not be resigned, making the Dickey trade and contract all that much more of an AA coup. The only exception to chasing JJ in the off season is if Morrow's arm falls off and of course just like so much else, the rest is on what Rickey really is: this year the answer will finally be answered one way or another!

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    1. Drabek definitely still has lots of potential, but maybe there's an off chance the Jays convert him into a reliever if he can't cut it as a starter?

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    2. This is just speculation on my part however; As it relates to Dustin McGowan, Dr's had suggested that he wouldn't be a good candidate for the bullpen because there isn't the routeen there is as a starter, with less ability to take 2 days off, throw on the side, take another day off etc (each starter has their own off days scheduled and way they like to go about their business) As a reliever you could be sent to warm up 3 days in a row and never see game action. (all standard stuff you know) Dr's suggested that Dustin's arm couldn't handle that.

      It's relative because both have had multiple TJ's and both throw hard. It's because of this and even prior to his latest injury, the control issues were still there. Drabek as you said still has a ton of potential but he needs to have his delivery adjusted. The Jays brass is obviously too smart to just let him heal and comeback, to try to salvage the player he'll start from A ball and make extended stays, he wont be seen at all this year, spring next year he might make an appearance but look for him to start in AA or in Buffalo in '14

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    3. I thought Drabek was beginning to make some good strides at the beginning of the 2012 season. That exercise they had to keep his follow-through within the ropes looked like it was working to start off, but then he fell back into his old habits.

      The good thing is the Blue Jays have the liberty of time on their side - no need to rush Drabek or Hutchison back into the rotation. They can take their time and like you indicated, maybe not even bring them back until 2014.

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