Josh Johnson Rumors

Padres Sign Josh Johnson

The Padres finished the season with a six-man rotation and have talented arms on the mend from Tommy John surgery in the form of Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland, but that didn't stop GM Josh Byrnes from landing one of the highest-upside arms on the free agent market. The Padres announced on Wednesday that they have signed right-hander Josh Johnson to a one-year contract.

Johnson's deal is reportedly worth $8MM, and he can earn another $1.25MM if he makes 26 starts. The contract also contains a conditional option that offers the Padres some protection against his lengthy injury history; if Johnson fails to make seven starts next season, San Diego will gain a $4MM club option for the 2015 season.

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The Pirates appear to have been the runners-up in the Johnson sweepstakes, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweets, and ESPN's Jerry Crasnick cites the Astros, Royals, and White Sox (Twitter link) among the other clubs that expressed interest in Johnson.  Johnson had the Padres and Giants as his top two choices and turned down bigger one-year offers to sign with San Diego, a source told Crasnick.  

Johnson had a rough 2013, making just 16 starts thanks to injury troubles.  The soon-to-be 30-year-old pitched through tendonitis in his knee all season and spent time on the disabled list due to a forearm strain and triceps inflamation before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow in early October.  Johnson has only topped 200 innings in a season once and has only thrown more than 100 innings four times in a Major League season.

In his shortened 2013 campaign, Johnson posted a 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings. However, advanced stats such as xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73) would indicate that bad luck played a role in Johnson's troubles.  For his career, Johnson owns a 3.40 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.

Johnson figures to join Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Eric Stults, and Tyson Ross in San Diego's projected 2014 rotation, giving the Padres a very solid starting five in the increasingly competitive NL West.  Joe Wieland, Cory Luebke, and Robbie Erlin also figure to be in the mix.

While Johnson and his health might not be a sure thing, the deal appears to be fairly low-risk at just one year and the $8MM price tag doesn't break the bank for San Diego.  Tim predicted back in October that Johnson would net a one-year, $8MM deal in free agency.

Earlier today, Travis Sawchick of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Johnson narrowed down his choices to three or four teams, with the Pirates being among the clubs in the mix.  Shortly thereafter, Tim learned that all of the interested teams were out of the National League with some likely on the West Coast.

Johnson is in San Diego for a physical today and the deal is expected to be announced Wednesday.  The right-hander ranked 30th on Tim's Top 50 Free Agents list for 2014.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com first reported the one-year, $8MM agreement. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes was the first to learn about the incentives (Twitter link), and Yahoo's Jeff Passan broke the news about the conditional $4MM option for 2015 (on Twitter).

Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Discounted Josh Johnson Is Low Risk, High Reward For Padres

The Padres have long held a competitive advantage in that San Diego is a desirable place to play baseball, specifically with a large, pitcher-friendly ballpark.  They can often sign free agent starting pitchers without making the highest bid, as was the case with their one-year, $8MM deal for righty Josh Johnson.

Johnson was limited to 16 starts for the Blue Jays in 2013 due to triceps tightness and a forearm injury, which resulted in arthroscopic elbow surgery in early October.  As explained in our free agent profile, Johnson has had only three healthy seasons in the last five, and the gold standard contract for a pitcher coming off an injury is Ben Sheets' $10MM deal with the Athletics nearly four years ago.  It seems possible Johnson and agent Matt Sosnick could have gotten close to that $10MM mark had they focused on the highest bidder, but the pitcher preferred San Diego for personal reasons.  The Padres got a discount approaching 20%, just for being the Padres.  

Johnson was already a low-risk proposition, since he targeted a one-year deal from the outset as a means of rebuilding value and re-entering free agency after 2014.  The Padres further lowered their risk a bit by acquiring a $4MM club option for 2015 in the event Johnson makes fewer than seven starts in 2014, according to Yahoo's Jeff Passan.  We saw a more drastic version of this clause play out with the Red Sox and John Lackey, as Lackey's league minimum option went into effect when he missed significant time with surgery for a pre-existing elbow injury.  Most likely, Johnson will make at least seven starts in 2014, as he has each season since 2007, when he had Tommy John surgery.  If he doesn't, something serious will have gone wrong, and the Padres may not want to guarantee Johnson even $4MM for 2015.  It would be nice to have the option, though.

Johnson hasn't had an ace-caliber, healthy season since 2010, which is why I think his upside is something closer to 2012's 3.81 ERA rather than the type of season that gets Cy Young votes.  There's still considerable upside for the Padres in this deal, though, as Johnson's earnings top out at $9.25MM for 2014.  The going rate for a #3-4 type starter is around $14MM, and Johnson certainly has that capability for the Padres.

The best part about signing Johnson for the Padres is that they are not relying on him.  As Passan explains, they've got a surplus of starters with Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, and others, so if Johnson goes bust it won't ruin their chances of having a good rotation.


AL East Rumors: Blue Jays, Johnson, Markakis, Ruiz

After looking at the Red Sox earlier this evening, let's check out the rest of the American League East..

  • General Manager Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays haven’t had recent talks with Josh Johnson and gets the impression that he has better options elsewhere, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Earlier today it was reported that Johnson is down to three or four teams with the Pirates among the finalists and Tim Dierkes learned that all of those clubs are in the National League.
  • Nick Markakis is among the Orioles in need of a better 2014 campaign, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Markakis was plagued with injuries in 2012 and struggled in 2013, even though he played a full season. If he's going to turn things around, 2014 – his walk year – might be the time to do it.
  • Anthopoulos acknowledged that he had dialogue with Carlos Ruiz's agent and "liked the player" in an interview on Sportsnet 590, BN-S tweets. The Phillies re-signed Ruiz to a three-year, $26MM deal earlier this week.
  • Yankees president Randy Levine denied conspiring with MLB to run Alex Rodriguez out of the game or to personally benefit financially if his 211-game suspension is upheld, a source familiar with his testimony told Wallace Matthews and Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (video link) looks at Matt Wieters' future with the Orioles.


Josh Johnson Narrows Choice To Three Or Four NL Teams

2:31pm: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (via Twitter) hears that Johnson's finalists are all NL teams, some likely on the west coast.

1:45pm: Josh Johnson has narrowed his decision down to three or four teams, agent Matt Sosnick tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the Pirates are among the finalists. A deal could be done "in the short-term," Sawchik adds, reminding that Johnson is seeking to rebuild his value on a one-year deal (Twitter links). Last night, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Johnson reached out to the Padres and Giants early in the offseason to inform the teams that they were his first choice.

Johnson, 30 in January, posted a bloated 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings. Sabermetric stats such as xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73) feel that Johnson was victim to some bad luck, and his .356 BABIP and 18.5 percent homer-to-flyball ratio would back that line of thinking up.

Of course, the bigger issue with Johnson is his health. Johnson pitched through tendonitis in his knee all season and also hit the disabled list due to a forearm strain and triceps inflamation this season before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow in early October. Johnson is one of the game's most talented arms but has only topped 200 innings in a season once, and in fact has only thrown more than 100 innings four times in a Major League season.

The Pirates are a logical suitor for his services as they've recently enjoyed success in buying low on talented pitchers coming off down seasons. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon have all enjoyed tremendous success in a black and gold jersey. Johnson didn't receive a qualifying offer and therefore won't require his new team to surrender a draft pick.


NL West Links: Johnson, Hawkins, Rockies, Dodgers

Josh Johnson reached out to the Giants and Padres to let them know they were his first choices for a new team, Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (all Twitter links).  Both teams play close to Johnson's home in Las Vegas and also have pitcher-friendly ballparks that are ideal for a hurler looking to rebuild his value on a one-year contract.  Schulman isn't sure if the Giants made Johnson an offer, though Johnson's chances of joining the club have likely dimmed now that San Francisco has signed Tim Hudson.  Starting pitching isn't an offseason priority for the Padres, though a healthy and in-form Johnson projects as the ace of San Diego's rotation.

Here are some more items from around the NL West…

  • The Rockies' one-year, $2.5MM agreement with LaTroy Hawkins "blew away" the Mets' offer to the veteran reliever, a source tells Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News.  Colorado also outbid the Braves, who didn't need Hawkins in either a closing or setup role, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).
  • Now that the Rockies have signed Hawkins, Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link) opines that the club needs to pursue the likes of Edward Mujica, Joe Smith or Jose Veras to further upgrade their shaky bullpen.  Renck also looks at how the Hawkins signing impacts Rex Brothers' role as Colorado's "closer of the future."
  • Also from Renck (Sulia link), the Rockies and left-hander Jorge De La Rosa haven't begun talks on a contract extension.  De La Rosa's current deal is up after the 2014 season and Renck reported last month that both sides have interest in continuing their relationship.  The southpaw also tells Renck that he is recovered from the thumb injury that bothered him down the stretch last season.
  • The Dodgers have received "moderate to moderate-plus" trade interest in Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, an official tells Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown.  We heard last week that the Dodgers were open to offers for Kemp, Ethier or Carl Crawford in order to free up payroll space and a spot in the outfield.  Brown's piece outlines the Dodgers' offseason priorities, beginning with Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw.
  • Juan Uribe is looking for a three-year contract, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The Dodgers are interested in bringing Uribe back but not at that length, which Heyman admits is "probably a stretch."  Indeed, Tim Dierkes said that Uribe would be weighing one- or two-year offers in MLBTR's free agent profile of the third baseman.
  • The Dodgers would be better off trading to upgrade their rotation than signing a free agent hurler, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon opines.  "With the exception of [Masahiro] Tanaka, it’s an exceptionally flawed market for free agent starting pitchers and it seems like the Dodgers are more than aware of that. Much as they’d like to improve their rotation, they might be better served to sit this one out," Saxon writes.
  • In other NL West news from earlier today, we collected some more Giants news items and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that the Dodgers signed Brendan Harris to a minor league deal.

Pitching Notes: Johnson, Arroyo, Hudson, Colon

Now that Tim Hudson has signed with the Giants, executives around baseball think the pitching market will begin to open up, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan tweets.  One GM predicts Josh Johnson will be the next hurler to sign, and there has been no shortage of interest in the right-hander, as agent Matt Sosnick claimed that he'd spoken to nearly every team about his client.  The Rangers and Royals have both been linked to Johnson, and the pitcher himself reached out to the Padres and Giants to express his interest.

Here's the latest about some of the offseason's available starters…

  • One team that doesn't appear to be in the mix for Johnson are the Blue Jays, his most recent club.  The Jays haven't made any progress with Johnson, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports, and there aren't any signs that they're even continuing negotiations.  Johnson was open to returning to Toronto though his contract demands seem to be higher than the Jays are willing to pay.
  • Bronson Arroyo listed the Giants, Twins, Phillies, Angels, Dodgers and "maybe" the Orioles as teams he thinks have called to express their interest in his services, the veteran righty said during an interview with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.  Arroyo discussed what he's looking for in a team and what his contract expectations are during the interview; MLB.com's Mark Sheldon has a partial transcript and an audio link to the full interview.
  • The Braves offered Hudson a two-year contract earlier this week but it wasn't enough, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.  The Braves' previous offer to Hudson was a one-year deal worth less than $9MM (his annual salary in each of the previous four seasons) which clearly wasn't enough with so many other teams in the mix.  O'Brien says the Braves could add another veteran to replace Hudson.
  • The Athletics were second in the Hudson race behind the Giants, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Twitter link).  That's a bit of a surprise for the low-payroll A's but Hudson would've made sense on a short-term deal, plus he has long-time ties to the franchise.
  • If the A's had signed Hudson, they would've ended their pursuit of Bartolo Colon, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).  Hudson would "probably more trustworthy" an option than Colon in the Oakland rotation, though the A's still have interest in re-signing Colon at a "price they deem reasonable."
  • In an interview with Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Scott Feldman said his agent had heard from "15 teams or so" but "it's been a slow-developing market so far" (Twitter links).
  • The Twins still haven't made a formal offer to Ricky Nolasco, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson tweets.  This is no change from the last update about Nolasco and the Twins, though the club is definitely interested in the free agent righty.

Olney’s Latest: Nolasco, Twins, Joba, Royals, Peralta, Headley

Major League Baseball is in a race against the clock to change the rules and eliminate home-plate collisions, writes ESPN's Buster Olney in his latest Insider-only column. MLB GMs were "100 percent" in favor when the issue of a rule-change was raised at the GM Meetings this week, says Olney. As one team lawyer pointed out to Olney, MLB has no choice but to scramble to get something in place for next season: "Everybody has said that there needs to be a change [in the rules], and if somebody gets hurt [in 2014] they could sue and claim that Major League Baseball knew there was a problem and didn’t do anything about it." Here are just a few of the highlights from Olney's highly informative piece:

  • Ricky Nolasco already has a three-year offer in hand, and that same team has indicated that it may be willing to extend the offer to four years. Nolasco's agent, Matt Sosnick, told Olney that his client's preference is still to return to the Dodgers.
  • Teams are racing to make their best offers to pitchers like Tim Hudson and Bronson Arroyo, knowing that those arms might not require the potential four- and five-year deals that Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are targeting.
  • The Twins have made it clear that they're looking to sign two good veteran arms, and in a separate tweet Olney notes that they're being very aggressive on the free agent market. In addition to their interest in Arroyo, it's possible that they're in on Nolasco, says Olney.
  • The Royals have had internal discussions about adding Joba Chamberlain on a one-year deal, and as Olney points out, Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland was Chamberlain's pitching coach with the Yankees earlier in his career.
  • The Royals would also like to sign Josh Johnson to a one-year deal in an attempt to recreate the magic of last year's Santana acquisition.
  • Jhonny Peralta is looking for "huge" money, according to Olney's sources. Olney writes that Peralta is seeking "much" more than three years and $45MM. I predicted a three-year, $36MM pact for Peralta in my recent free agent profile of the former Tiger.
  • The Padres haven't had any extension talks with Chase Headley this offseason, and as it stands right now, there are no plans to begin negotiations.

AL Notes: Beltran, Royals, Scherzer, Yankees

Carlos Beltran wouldn't mind returning to the Royals, writes MLB.com's Dick Kaegel. "I think it would be a great story if it happens for me to go back," Beltran says of the possibility of again playing for the team with which he began his big-league career. Unsurprisingly, though, he isn't ready to commit to anything just yet, with seven to ten teams that might want to sign him, including many from big markets. "[T]here are just a lot of teams that have interest in my services, but we haven't talked about the number of years or the money; everything is preliminary right now," says Beltran. Here's more from the American League.

  • The Royals would like to sign starting pitcher Josh Johnson, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Johnson appears to be a high-upside gamble and is a good team player, Olney says, and he might be available on a one-year contract.
  • AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer wouldn't mind signing an extension to stay with the Tigers, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. "I am open (to a new contract)," says Scherzer. "I realize I have it good here in Detroit. But it also takes two to dance." Scherzer is due to become a free agent after the 2014 season and should be in line for a huge payday. His agent, Scott Boras, sometimes negotiates pre-free agency extensions for his clients, but often prefers to have them test free agency. The Tigers also could trade Scherzer or another starter this offseason.
  • The Yankees are unlikely to sign big-name free agents right away, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. They do not expect Brian McCann or Beltran to agree to a contract before they know what their options are, and so the only way to sign those players right now would be to make them offers that are difficult to refuse. Marchand notes that the Yankees like Beltran better than Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo because Ellsbury and Choo would require longer contracts.

NL West Notes: Napoli, Giants, Johnson, Puig

Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link) says that Mike Napoli would be a strong fit for the Rockies. Renck believes that the Rockies could land Napoli by doling out big dollars on a medium-term deal and suggests last year’s ill-fated three-year, $39MM pact as a starting point. Meanwhile, Colorado also likes cheaper alternative Michael Morse.  More from the NL West..

  • Giants GM Brian Sabean told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter) that nothing is imminent pitching-wise.  Right now he’s only discussing concepts of dollars and years with agents.  Sabean added that he would go to three years for the right guy.
  • Schulman (link) also spoke with Josh Johnson‘s agent who said that he only discussed a deal for his client with the Giants “in passing.”
  • The Dodgers have made outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford available, but they’re also getting inquiries on Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  Of course, of the four,  the Dodgers are most reluctant to trade Puig.

AL Central Rumors: Hughes, Royals, Pierzynski, Twins

The Royals are among the clubs with interest in free agent pitcher Phil Hughes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland knows Hughes well from his time spent with the Yankees and is a fan of his.  A return to New York isn't in the cards as both sides recognize that a change of scenery would be best.  The latest from the AL Central…

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post