Josh Johnson Rumors
It appears that the Blue Jays weren't the only team interested in pulling off a Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson blockbuster this offseason. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com adds that the Red Sox also talked with the Fish regarding the Johnson, Reyes and possibly Emilio Bonifacio as well. Ultimately, the Red Sox backed off due to an unwillingness to consider parting with top prospect Xander Bogaerts.
It's understandable that Bogaerts, viewed by most as Boston's top prospect, would be a sticking point. The shortstop from Aruba is ranked higher than any player the Marlins received in Top 100 lists from Baseball America (No. 8), ESPN's Keith Law (No. 5) and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo (No. 20).
Johnson told Bradford on Wednesday that he, like others in the trade, was caught off guard by the trade. He had been preparing his wife for a trade during the 2012 season, but once the deadline passed, he thought that he and the Marlins' other star players would remain in Miami until this year's trade deadline at the very least:
"I wasn’t hearing one thing. My agent never said anything. Even when the trade went down he was like, ‘Let me see if this is real or not.' But by then it was already on MLB Trade Rumors and stuff."
The right-hander also noted that close friend Cody Ross told Johnson he would love playing in Boston. Johnson went on to say good things about the city when further questioned on the matter by Bradford.
The Blue Jays ultimately acquired Johnson, Reyes, Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and John Buck from the Marlins in exchange for Justin Nicolino, Jake Marisnick, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis and Anthony Desclafani.
However, as we learned last month, that trade may not have happened had the White Sox not reached a last-minute extension with Jake Peavy. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and White Sox GM Rick Hahn nearly completed a trade before Peavy signed his contract.
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- The Blue Jays are already looking at an uphill battle to achieve a postseason berth, so much so that Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says it is not too early to wonder whether they will be trade deadline sellers. In particular, Cameron notes that the team may be forced to consider dealing soon-to-be free agent starter Josh Johnson. He adds in an audio chat, however, that there is little likelihood that a hypothetical Johnson trade would happen before mid-June. Cameron expanded upon the article in the chat, including discussion of the way that baseball's current rule system will continue to impact teams' trade incentives (beginning at around the 8:57 mark).
- The Rangers have used thirteen pitchers this season, ten of whom have never appeared in another MLB uniform, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Team CEO Nolan Ryan explains: "What you're seeing is a philosophy of pitching in our system and we've stayed the course and we are committed to developing pitching within our system." The current and future flow of pitching talent has enabled the team to pursue top line free agents like Zack Greinke without feeling compelled to overpay.
- With their solid start coming in spite of bad health, the Yankees could continue to tinker with their roster, writes Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues. In particular, Axisa says players like Casper Wells, Chris Nelson, and Humberto Quintero could all be easy ways to make small, but still-important upgrades.
- The Brewers are hoping to acquire a corner infielder/outfielder in the mold of Mark Kotsay, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. In 2011, Kotsay played in 104 games for the Brewers at all three outfield spots as well as first base.
- Neither the Braves nor Diamondbacks will end up as the loser of the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com opined last week. Ringolsby says that Upton needed a change of scenery to an environment where he did not have to be "The Guy." With the Braves able to fully realize Upton's value, says Ringolsby, the Diamondbacks in turn were able to open playing time for other outfielders (specifically, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra) while impacting the team's clubhouse and building farm depth.
Despite ranking third on Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, Josh Johnson's next big contract is far from a sure thing. Poised to hit free agency for the first time at age 30 next season, the upcoming season will be critical to Johnson as he looks to shed his "injury-prone" label and cash in on a five- or even six-year free agent deal.
Johnson pitched a respectable 191 1/3 innings last season -- the third time in four seasons in which he's surpassed the 180-inning mark. However, Johnson also has a lengthy injury history, having spent time on the 60-day DL for shoulder issues, elbow problems and recovery from Tommy John surgery. His innings totals from 2007 (15 2/3), 2008 (87 1/3) and 2011 (60 1/3) are likely enough to give teams serious pause should Johnson miss significant time in 2013.
This will also be Johnson's first venture into American League pitching, as he spent his entire career with the Marlins prior to this November's blockbuster with Toronto. Pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of the Rogers Centre in Toronto and against the powerful lineups of the AL East will undoubtedly serve as a challenge for the right-hander.
However, when Johnson is healthy he has the talent to be one of the game's most dominant arms. Over his past four seasons (644 1/3 innings), the 6'7" hurler has a 2.99 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 47.8 percent ground-ball rate. Another 180-200 inning season in the powerful AL East could position Johnson to eclipse former teammate Anibal Sanchez's five-year, $80MM contract with the Tigers. A recurrence of the injury bug could force Johnson to settle for a short-term deal -- perhaps even a one-year pact to demonstrate his health.
Johnson is set to earn $13.75MM this season -- the final salary of the four-year, $39MM extension he signed prior to the 2010 season. That's hardly chump change, but this is likely his best shot at a massive free agent contract. If Johnson is injured this season, even a 200-inning effort in 2014 might not be enough to convince a team to guarantee four, five or six years to the power right-hander. Despite being part of a free agent class that could include Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, Johnson could parlay a dominant 2013 season into a hefty pay raise, and possibly the biggest free agent contract for a pitcher next winter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
On this date in 2007 the Red Sox signed free agent outfielder J.D. Drew to a five-year, $70MM contract. Though Drew hit .264/.370/.455 in Boston, he had trouble staying on the field and faced his share of scrutiny over the years. Here are today's AL East links, as Drew's younger brother Stephen prepares for his first season with the Red Sox...
- Dan Haren told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that his agent had a lot of conversations with the Red Sox this past winter (Twitter link). The Nationals ultimately signed Haren to a one-year, $13MM deal.
- Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson took note of Felix Hernandez's seven-year, $175MM extension, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. "It’s kind of hard not to see that. It’s incredible, he deserves it," Johnson said. He'll earn $13.75MM in 2013 before hitting free agency next offseason. The 29-year-old ranked third on MLBTR's initial Free Agent Power Rankings.
- The Blue Jays’ roster includes many players from the 2012 Marlins, but Toronto’s club won’t be so disappointing, Morosi writes at FOX Sports.com.
- Infielder Omar Quintanilla seriously considered the Mets and Orioles this offseason before deciding to sign in New York, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports. The Mets traded Quintanilla to Baltimore for future considerations last July then re-signed him in January after the Orioles non-tendered him.
In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney says Josh Johnson has a chance to be next offseason's Zack Greinke. If the right-hander stays healthy in 2012, he'll be arguably the best starting pitcher on the free agent market at a time when the sport is flush with cash and big market teams like the Cubs and Rangers figure to be in a position to spend. Here are the rest of Olney's rumors...
- Matt Sosnick, Johnson's agent, confirmed to Olney that they have not yet had any contract extension talks with the Blue Jays. They are open to it, however.
- Olney lists Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Ruiz, Brian McCann, Matt Garza, Joel Hanrahan, Carlos Gomez, David Murphy, and James Loney as players who have a lot riding on 2013 as they prepare to hit free agency after next season.
- In the wake of the Josh Hamilton signing, Kendrys Morales could be a good fit for the Rays as a switch-hitting DH with power and on-base skills. ESPN's Jim Bowden reports (on Twitter) that multiple AL teams are "in play" for Morales.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke to reporters today, and MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm recapped the scrum. Here's the important hot stove stuff...
- "We still can add depth in our rotation, still get better in the bullpen," said the GM when asked if he was actively looking for help. The blockbuster with the Marlins did change the dynamic of their free agent pursuits.
- Anthopoulos said he "never (feels) a rush to extend a player" when asked about a potential extension for Josh Johnson, who is open to a new deal.
- Rotation depth is likely to come on minor league contracts, though a guaranteed deal is not out of the question under the right circumstances.
- The Blue Jays are not in the market for free agent position players at the moment.
- "You know what, I never talk about who we’re going to extend who we’re not going to extend," replied Anthopoulos when asked about a potential contract extension for Colby Rasmus.
- Anthopoulos admitted to softening his stance on "untouchable" players. "I’ve always had players I’m highly reluctant to trade, but at the same time, over time, I’ve realized if we have a chance to make the team better I’m going to be open to it," he said.
Josh Johnson has yet to throw a pitch for the Blue Jays after being acquired in a 12-player blockbuster earlier this month, but the right-hander is open to remaining with the team beyond 2013. Agent Matt Sosnick told Brendan Kennedy of The Toronto Star they'd be receptive to a new deal to remain in Toronto.
"If there is anyone in the game I’d be receptive to talking to about it it’s (Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos)," said Sosnick. "It hasn’t come up in any of our conversations ... (Anthopoulos) hasn’t volunteered it and I haven’t asked him about it. It’s probably something that if he wants to talk about it we’ll talk about it down the road."
Johnson, 28, will earn $13.75MM next season, the final year on the four-year, $39MM contract he signed with the Marlins prior to 2010. He pitched to a 3.81 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 191 1/3 innings this season, though his fastball velocity dipped and both his strikeout and walk rates declined for a second straight year.
From 2009-2011, Johnson posted a 2.64 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 453 innings across 70 starts. A return to that level of performance with the Blue Jays this year would potentially put Johnson in line for a nine-figure contract as a free agent next offseason, when he will be arguably the best starter on the market.
Just like last offseason, the Marlins have made plenty of headlines so far this year. This winter's moves haven't been met with the same kind of praise, however. Here's the latest from Miami...
- "I’m upset with how things turned out in Miami," said the recently-traded Mark Buehrle in a statement, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of The Sun-Sentinel. "Just like the fans in South Florida, I was lied to on multiple occasions. But I’m putting it behind me and looking forward to moving on with my career."
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports says the Marlins should trade Giancarlo Stanton right now if they're serious about rebuilding. "This has a chance to be baseball's version of the Herschel Walker trade," he wrote.
- Josh Johnson, one of the players involved in last week's blockbuster, found out he was traded thanks to the MLB Trade Rumors app. The right-hander joined the Dan LeBatard Show on 790 the Ticket in Miami and explained how he heard about the deal (via Sports Radio Interviews).
Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this post.
Commissioner Bud Selig has approved the blockbuster trade that the Blue Jays and Marlins agreed to last week. The Blue Jays announced the 12-player trade, which sends Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio and cash considerations to Toronto for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Justin Nicolino, Anthony Desclafani and Jake Marisnick.
The deal, which calls for the Marlins to send the Blue Jays $4MM, required the approval of the commissioner's office. The Blue Jays are taking on tens of millions in future payroll obligations, while the Marlins are moving the contracts of Reyes and Buehrle less than one full year after signing them as free agents.
Ultimately the deal "represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both clubs," Selig said in a statement approving the trade.
Reyes, 29, hit .287/.347/.433 with eleven home runs in 716 plate appearances last season. The batting line wasn't quite as impressive as the .337/.384/.493 he put up in his contract year with New York, but it was promising to see the shortstop appear in 160 games after missing 191 games across the previous three seasons. Despite the club's disappointing performance last season, Reyes said over the summer that he didn't have any regrets about signing with Miami.
Buehrle's deal, like Reyes', is heavily backloaded with the hurler set to earn $11MM in 2013, $18MM in 2014, and $19MM in 2015 after making just $6MM in 2012. The contract also includes a $4MM signing bonus that's deferred without interest. While considering a number of offers, Buehrle was said to be prioritizing a no-trade clause, something he didn't end up receiving from the Marlins. The veteran had a 3.74 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 31 starts for Miami last season.
Bonifacio played just 64 games in an injury-riddled 2011 campaign. The 27-year-old can fill a number of different roles, having experience at all three outfield positions, second base, shortstop, and third base. Buck, 32, earned his first All-Star selection in 2010 as a member of the Blue Jays. His offensive production regressed in the two years since, posting a .213/.308/.358 batting line for the Marlins.
While the Marlins gave up a substantial amount of talent in the trade, they won't be coming away empty handed. Hechavarria was a highly-regarded prospect in the Blue Jays' organization and his play reportedly had Toronto executives ready to part with Escobar in the right trade. Of course, this megadeal sends both shortstops out of town.
Escobar struggled at the plate last season, hitting .253/.300/.344 with nine homers in 608 plate appearances. The infielder does come with a team-friendly contract, however, as he'll earn $5MM in 2013 with team options for the same amount in '14 and '15. For his career, the 30-year-old has a .282/.353/.390 batting line in six seasons with the Braves and Blue Jays. Mathis, 29, came to the Blue Jays last season in a trade for Brad Mills that helped ease the Angels' catching glut. The veteran will earn $3MM across the next two seasons with a club option for 2015 worth $1.5MM.
The Marlins also picked up a quartet of quality youngsters in the trade. Alvarez, 22, made 31 starts for the Blue Jays last season with a 4.85 ERA and 3.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. Nicolino, taken in the second-round of the 2010 draft, has received high praise for his aggressive pitching and willingness to pound the strike zone. The Florida native cruised through Single-A ball last year, posting a 2.46 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9.
Marisnick, 21, was rated as the No. 67 prospect in the country and the No. 3 prospect in the Blue Jays' organization after the 2011 season by Baseball America. The publication also considered the former third-round pick to have the best defensive skillset and arm of any outfielder in the Toronto farm system. DeSclafani, taken in the sixth-round of the 2011 draft, posted a 3.37 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in his debut season for Single-A Lansing.MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post.
Even after adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in Tuesday's massive trade with the Marlins, the Blue Jays "still need -- and want -- one more starter," reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Assuming the trade with Miami is finalized in its current form, the Jays' rotation currently stands as Brandon Morrow, Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero and J.A. Happ.
The Jays' top priority this offseason was finding starting pitching, and Toronto has been connected to several of the top pitchers on the market as well bounce-back candidates like Scott Baker (who has already signed with the Cubs). Given the number of injuries suffered by Jays starters in 2012, it's no surprise that the club wants as much depth as possible for next year's rotation. The Blue Jays have already greatly increased payroll so they could continue this willingness to spend by chasing a Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, but it's also possible that the Jays have already done their major winter spending and will now look for depth amongst lower-priced free agent pitching options.
Matt Sosnick, Johnson's agent, raised the possibility during a recent radio interview that the Jays could deal Johnson or another of the newly-acquired players from the Marlins. Rosenthal doesn't believe that the big right-hander will be leaving Toronto anytime soon: "Anything is possible, but team did not get Johnson to flip him." Of the players in the deal, John Buck seems like the most obvious trade candidate given the Jays' depth at catcher, though Buck has much less trade value than a younger backstop like J.P. Arencibia.