It’s been another disappointing season for the Blue Jays’ Josh Johnson, who was expected to be a big part of the Jays’ playoff push after being acquired in last offseason’s blockbuster deal with the Marlins. As Toronto mulls a qualifying offer for the big right-hander, they’ll have to weigh his troubling injury history with his ability to dominate when on the mound.
Johnson seemingly righted the ship in 2012, when he posted a 3.81 ERA and managed 30 starts for the first time since 2009. However, he was sidelined for much of 2013 by a series of arm ailments and knee tendinitis, and was finally shut down in late August with a strained forearm. His final line, a 6.20 ERA in 81 1/3 innings, makes 2013 arguably the worst campaign of his career.
That’s not the whole story, however, as peripheral numbers suggest that Johnson may have been the victim of some bad luck in 2013. His 9.2 K/9 this year is well above his career mark of 7.8, though it’s offset by an uptick in walks, and his xFIP is just 3.60. Looking closer, we see that Johnson’s 18.5 percent HR/FB rate may have been the source of his 2013 woes. That figure is more than double his career 8.2 percent mark and ranks as the third-highest in baseball among pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings.
There’s also the fact that Johnson has consistently performed at a high level when healthy. His career ERA stands at 3.40, and he’s still just 29. GM Alex Anthopoulos could make a splash in free agency or offer up more high-level prospects in a trade, but at just one year and $14MM or so, Johnson seems attractive in terms of upside.
Though the Blue Jays’ offseason makeover hasn’t worked as planned, the other major pieces the club acquired – Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey – all return for another playoff push in 2014. Given this and Johnson’s encouraging peripherals, the righty may be worth the qualifying offer gamble. What do you think?