Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Odds of a Josh Johnson Contract Extension
By Ian Hunter
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.