Josh Johnson Rumors

As Josh Johnson Begins Throwing, Padres Face Decision

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.”


NL Notes: Burnett, Hamels, Niese, Mets, Padres, Johnson

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.”

NL West Notes: D’Backs, Padres, Sabean

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.


Rosenthal On White Sox, Johnson, Cruz

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.

NL Notes: Johnson, Ishikawa, Garza

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.”
    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/04/25/3896134/ishikawa-lands-back-with-grizzlies.html#storylink=cpy
  • 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.

Josh Johnson To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Padres right-hander Josh Johnson will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow and miss the entire 2014 season, tweets MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

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).


NL Notes: Johnson, Cubs, Bradley

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 BradleyDiamondbacks 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."

Pitching Notes: Johnson, Wieland, Hanson

The Padres will shut starting pitcher Josh Johnson down for 10 days to two weeks with a strained flexor, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Johnson will be out for at least four weeks. It must be a frustrating injury for Johnson, who only started 16 games last season. While the injury doesn't appear to threaten a huge portion of the season, the Padres can feel grateful for an option they built into Johnson's contract — if Johnson starts fewer than seven games this season, the Padres get a $4MM option on his services for 2015. Here are more notes on pitchers.

  • Another Padres pitcher, Joe Wieland, will have minor surgery to address irritation in his elbow, tweets MLB.com's Corey Brock. He is expected to be back by the All-Star Break. Wieland spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • The Rangers are facing a decision on Tommy Hanson, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan writes. Hanson has a split contract that calls for him to receive $2MM guaranteed in the Majors and less than that in the minors. If the Rangers don't option him by Wednesday, they'll be on the hook for the entire $2MM, but if they do option him, he can opt out and become a free agent. The Rangers are trying to figure out what to do in their rotation after Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers.

AL East Notes: Ichiro, Tigers, Cervelli, Blue Jays

A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt.  Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter.  Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.

Here's the latest from around the AL East…

  • Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
  • Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time.  “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said.  "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
  • Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees.  "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.  "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again."  Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
  • The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
  • According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.  Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on.  Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
  • No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.

West Notes: Angels, Rockies, Johnson

After the signing of reliever Joe Smith and their recent trade for David Freese and Fernando Salas, the Angels will only have about $8MM more they can spend before hitting the luxury tax threshold, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports. The Angels will likely continue to look for starting pitching, and they could trade Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Mark Trumbo in order to acquire pitching and clear salary. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • The Angels are interested in signing Bronson Arroyo and/or Bartolo Colon, but a deal is not close with either player, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweets.
  • With Brian McCann (Yankees) and Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) now off the market, the Rockies are likely through looking for a catcher, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post guesses (via Twitter). Those two, along with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, were the big names on the free agent market, and with McCann and Ruiz gone, Renck suggests that the Rockies will try to upgrade at other positions instead.
  • With Josh Johnson in the fold, the Padres have the makings of a good rotation in place, and Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune argues that should empower them to be bold for the rest of the offseason. With Johnson, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross at the big-league level, and Max Fried, Matt Wisler and Burch Smith behind them, the Padres can use their pitching depth to acquire a power hitter, Calkins argues. Of course, Padres starters had the worst WAR of any team last season, and Johnson is coming off an injury-plagued year, so it's questionable how much depth they really have.
  • Padres GM Josh Byrnes tells MLB Network Radio, in fact, that Johnson hasn't even thrown since having surgery on his elbow in October. Byrnes also suggests that "if this year doesn't go well, we'd like to get a discounted look at next year" (Twitter links). Johnson is signed to a one-year deal, but the Padres will receive a $4MM option for 2015 if Johnson doesn't start at least seven games in 2014.