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Josh Johnson Rumors
Payroll parity has improved throughout baseball, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. A combination of TV deals and luxury taxes have contributed to evening the playing field between the big earners and the laggards. As Mets GM Sandy Anderson points out, “there are outliers in both directions.” Yet we’ve also seen traditionally cautious clubs like the Reds sign Joey Votto to a large contract and outbid the Yankees on two Cuban players. The advantage may cycle back to large market clubs as they hire the best talent away from smaller market. We’ve seen the Dodgers snap up key personnel from the Rays and A’s this offseason which also allowed the Cubs to snag former Rays manager Joe Maddon. Brewers GM Doug Melvin isn’t concerned, saying “more (front office personnel) doesn’t mean better.”
- The Cubs and Red Sox will meet with Jon Lester this week, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. The Yankees could play the role of dark horse. While other sources have reported that Lester is willing to sign quickly, Gammons suggests the process may last into December.
- Pitcher Josh Johnson is talking with five to six clubs, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres remain the righty hurler’s first choice, although nothing is imminent. My own thoughts: I’m not sure I see San Diego as a fit unless they trade from their current stock of starters. While pitcher friendly Petco Park is a good destination for Johnson as he seeks to reestablish himself, the Padres appear to have five starters and at least four depth pieces. Surely, another club can offer Johnson an easier path to starts.
- Yoan Moncada‘s expected $30MM to $40MM price tag (reported on Nov. 12) isn’t the only impediment for interested clubs, writes Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Teams routinely reach handshake agreements with the next crop of international free agents well in advance of the July 2nd signing period. Any club who signs Moncada will not be able to sign an international player for over $300K, which would force many teams to rescind existing agreements. While that may not sound like a big issue, Badler describes Latin American scouting as a “small world.” A misstep could alienate the small cadre of influential trainers in the region. Moncada achieved free agency earlier today, although he has not yet been cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post…
- Sherman notes that in the past, A.J. Burnett signed close to his Maryland home because his wife hated flying. However, agent Darek Braunecker says this is no longer a restriction. Sherman mentions previous interest from the Angels and Rangers. Burnett is wise to expand his market, since teams like the Orioles, Mets, and Nationals are not generally looking to add starting pitching.
- The Padres are working to re-sign Josh Johnson. They already declined a $4MM option on the righty, who had Tommy John surgery in late April. No deal is close for Johnson, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
- The Dodgers have let teams know they prefer to trade Andre Ethier and/or Carl Crawford and will listen on Matt Kemp. The Dodgers are willing to kick in cash or take a bad contract back, and will pay more down for a better return in players. This is one of the few ways teams can still use financial clout to purchase young talent, in my opinion. Sherman says the Dodgers feel their current outfield situation is untenable, which fits with Ken Rosenthal’s report from Sunday. In a poll of 28 baseball industry insiders by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Ethier was considered the most likely to be traded.
- The Dodgers are also looking to add to their rotation and bullpen and are among the more interested suitors for Russell Martin. The Dodgers were one of four teams recently revealed to have a meeting in place with Martin’s agent.
- Johan Santana is “hellbent on coming back,” agent Chris Leible tells Sherman. Santana, 36 in March, was close to returning to the Majors with the Orioles last summer after April 2013 shoulder surgery, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon in June. Santana is currently jogging and playing catch.
The Padres announced that they have declined their $4MM club option on right-hander Josh Johnson. As MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets, the Friars are said to want to work out a lesser deal with Johnson and his representatives at Sosnick/Cobbe Sports.
Johnson, 31 in January, signed a one-year, $8MM contract with the Padres last offseason. That deal contained a clause stipulating that if Johnson were to make fewer than seven starts, the team would secure a $4MM club option for the 2015 season. Not only did Johnson fail to make seven starts, he didn’t take the mound at all in San Diego, as he fell victim to Tommy John surgery in April. Brock tweets that Johnson began a throwing program earlier this month and feels that he has “unfinished business” in San Diego.
Johnson’s injury history is lengthy, to put it mildly, but there’s no denying his status as one of baseball’s most talented pitchers when healthy. He owns a lifetime 3.40 ERA, but that number is skewed by some poor performances in injury-plagued seasons. During the best (and healthiest) stretch of his Major League career from 2009-11, Johnson posted a 2.64 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 453 innings with the Marlins. He’s a two-time All-Star that finished fourth in the 2006 Rookie of the Year voting and finished fifth in the 2010 Cy Young voting.
Padres starter Josh Johnson finally began playing catch for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. The veteran righty is expected to begin a throwing program over the coming months.
The Padres hold a $4MM option over Johnson by virtue of his injury-shortened 2014 season. That could still be a steep price to pay given the uncertainty, though last year’s Gavin Floyd contract comes to mind as an equivalently-valued payout for a recovering pitching arm.
San Diego’s decision must be made within three days of the conclusion of the World Series, says Brock, meaning the club will have little time to gauge his progress before acting. As Brock notes, the Padres have a solid cast of rotation options already, though Johnson could make particular sense if the team is inclined to deal away one of its better pitching assets for help elsewhere.
As Brock previously reported, new GM A.J. Preller has said that the team has a “positive feel” for Johnson, though he implied that a straightforward exercise of the option may not be the likeliest scenario. “We’ll try to go down the road with him and try to present something to him that makes sense to him,” said Preller.
The team was clearly impressed by Johnson despite his inability to contribute on the field, as he was an active part of the organization during his rehab. For his part, Johnson expressed admiration for the way he was treated. “I look at it [his time in San Diego] as unfinished business,” said Johnson. “… I’ve actually learned more this year than any other year in the past put together. And as far as the organization goes, I couldn’t have hoped for anything better.”
Here’s the latest from the National League:
- Phillies starter A.J. Burnett seems more likely to retire (and forgo his $12.75MM player option) than many people believe, observes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com in an offseason preview piece. Meanwhile, the club will listen on Cole Hamels but continue to demand a ransom in return, while Philadelphia could be more open to dealing not only veteran Marlon Byrd but also arb-eligible outfielders Domonic Brown and Ben Revere. As Salisbury notes, the rotation has plenty of question marks and openings.
- While Salisbury says he believes the Phillies will ultimately hang onto the 30-year-old Hamels, for better or worse, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki argues that the organization must view Hamels (and his fellow core veterans) from a pure baseball perspective. Attendance is plummeting in spite of the continued presence of numerous pieces of the team’s run of success, he notes, and the only way to rebuild the fan base is through winning.
- Neutral talent evaluators believe that lefty Jon Niese is the Mets‘ best trade chip among the club’s veteran starters, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. Niese, 27, threw to a 3.40 ERA over 187 2/3 frames in 2014. He is owed $16MM over the next two seasons and has a pair of options ($10MM and $11MM, with respective $500K buyouts) thereafter.
- The Mets are expected to replace hitting coach Lamar Johnson, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. That move is still not official, however, and New York is in the early stages of assessing who they might bring in.
- Padres GM A.J. Preller is about to get his first taste of open market action from the seat of power, as MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. Preller said that he anticipates a lot of trade attention on the team’s slate of arms, and indicated that he would be open to discussing any players if there’s a way to improve the club.
- One interesting player who remains under the Padres‘ control is starter Josh Johnson, whose injury-shortened year left the club with a $4MM team option. Preller said that he hopes to have Johnson in the fold next year, though left unclear whether the team is interested in a straight exercise of the option. “With Josh, he’s a guy that everyone has a positive feel for,” said Preller. “We’ll try to go down the road with him and try to present something to him that makes sense to him.”
The Dodgers hold a 20-19 record and have yet to live up to their preseason billing as World Series contenders, Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown writes. L.A. leads the National League in errors and have played uninspired baseball at times, though Brown reminds us that the Dodgers had a much worse record in May 2013 before they caught fire in the summer. Here’s the latest from around the NL West…
- With the Diamondbacks 10 games out of first place and the Padres 6.5 games behind the division-leading Giants, ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required) places two players from each team on his list of 10 players who could be moved at the trade deadline. Bowden feels that Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Chase Headley and Huston Street could all be dealt if the Snakes and Friars can’t get their seasons turned around.
- Speaking of those first-place Giants, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal feels the franchise is still somewhat overlooked as a baseball power despite winning two of the last four World Series titles. GM Brian Sabean’s ability to put together quality bullpens has been underrated, as Rosenthal points out how the Giants have consistently turned little-regarded pitchers into valuable relievers.
- While recovering from Tommy John surgery, Josh Johnson is trying to make the most of his time on the DL by helping mentor the Padres‘ young pitchers, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:
- The White Sox might prefer not to trade John Danks, who they have signed to a reasonable contract through 2016. But Adam Dunn is set to become a free agent, and the team has plenty of potential replacements for Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, so Chicago could deal any of those players at the deadline.
- Since Josh Johnson won’t start more than seven games this season, the Padres have a $4MM option on him for 2015. Given Johnson’s Tommy John surgery, though, it’s unclear whether the Padres will be able to get enough out of Johnson in 2015 to make the option worthwhile.
- Nelson Cruz of the Orioles has done a good job rebuilding his value after taking a one-year offer significantly below the cost of the qualifying offer he rejected last winter, Rosenthal says. Cruz is off to a fast start, hitting .300/.391/.588 in his first 92 plate appearances with Baltimore.
Padres pitcher Josh Johnson had Tommy John surgery Thursday, MLB.com’s Corey Brock notes. The surgery marks the end of another lost year for Johnson, who the Padres signed to an $8MM deal over the offseason. Because Johnson will start fewer than seven games this year, the Padres will have a $4MM option on him for 2015. It’s not yet clear whether they’ll exercise it, however. “We still have a lot of hurdles to clear before we make a decision on that,” says assistant GM A.J. Hinch. Here are more notes from the National League.
- After being designated for assignment by the Pirates, Travis Ishikawa became a free agent and signed with the Giants, who sent him to Triple-A Fresno. That’s an assignment with which Ishikawa is familiar, Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee reports. Ishikawa also played for Fresno in the 2008 and 2011 seasons. Ishikawa is, of course, aiming higher than Triple-A, however. “When I was looking around, the Giants made contact, and I noticed there wasn’t a lot of left-handed hitting on the bench up there,” he says. “Figured this was a good chance to get back up there and try to repeat what I was able to do before with the Giants.”
- Matt Garza, now with the Brewers, “[ran] out of hope” when he was with the Cubs, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “You go through three years of constantly hoping (with the Cubs), you kind of run out of hope,” he says. “You come to a team like this [the Brewers] where every day we’re going to win. We’re not going out to hope to win. We’re going out with the attitude we’re going to win.” Garza, who signed a $50MM contract with Milwaukee in the offseason, defeated his former team on Friday.
It’s a blow to a Padres pitching staff that was hoping for big things in a rebound campaign for Johnson, though the injury does trigger a $4MM club option that the Padres will now be able to exercise. Due to his extensive injury history, Johnson’s contract — a one-year, $8MM pact — contained language that gave the Padres a $4MM club option were he to make fewer than seven starts in 2014.
Johnson didn’t take the mound for the Padres after signing the deal, as he opened the year on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm, which, upon further examination by Dr. James Andrews, led to the recommendation to undergo the Tommy John operation. Johnson becomes the latest in a long line of injured hurlers to undergo the procedure this year, as he is now incredibly the 16th Major League starter to need the operation in 2014 alone.
Despite the loss of Johnson (and fellow Tommy John victim Cory Luebke), San Diego’s rotation has been excellent this season. The quintet of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin have combined for a 3.12 ERA (ninth in the Majors) and a 3.26 FIP (fifth in the Majors).
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden took a look back (Insider link) at his free agent predictions to see where he hit and missed. Most of his accurate guesses came on players who signed early, while the opposite holds true of those that he was off on. By far the biggest difference among actual and estimated deals came with Ervin Santana, who Bowden had tabbed for a five-year, $75MM deal but ultimately signed for a lower AAV and just one season.
As we join the rest of the game in celebrating the legacy of Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, here's more from the National League:
- Padres starter Josh Johnson, who is struggling to overcome a right forearm strain, will visit Dr. James Andrews for an assessment, reports MLB.com's Corey Brock. According to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the team is increasingly concerned that Johnson may require his second Tommy John surgery. GM Josh Byrnes said that, at this point, he is "not sure" if Johnson will be able to throw for the club this year, but that the team hopes to "know more next week." Johnson's one-year, $8MM deal with San Diego includes a conditional $4MM club option for next year that is triggered if the righty makes less than seven starts.
- With a farm system full of top-end talent in the field, the Cubs are focused on adding to a group of arms that may be too lightly regarded, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for Baseball America. "Our arms are probably a little bit underrated," said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "That said, we need at least twice as many of them as we have now. But I think we’ve done a nice job through the last couple drafts and, especially, through some trades adding to that reserve." But that does not mean that Epstein is content with the talent he has brought together. "We need to keep pounding it," he said. "Every trade we make, we try to get an arm. Every time we have a draft pick, we look closely at the best available arm who we can add to the organization."
- Meanwhile, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said today that the team is focused on upgrading Wrigley Field rather than taking a shot at a suburban ballpark, even if that might be more financially advantageous, the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). He also said that the club was focusing on the overall development of its international prospects, not just teaching basic English but working to address broader educational needs.
- Addressing the recent comments by the agent of top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers made clear that he had no intentions of being influenced, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports (Twitter links). "We're going to run our business and not let anybody else dictate how we do our business," said Towers. "I'm a straight shooter, too," he added. "If we felt at the start of the season that this guy was ready he would have been here."