Josh Johnson Rumors
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...
- With Ervin Santana looking for a $100MM contract, the Royals are prepared to move on to look for other pitching options, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes. Besides Hughes, the Royals also have interest in Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson. "We want a bat, but in our meetings, the main thing we talk about is finding someone to put between [James] Shields and [Jeremy] Guthrie," one Royals official said.
- In regards to those bats, Dutton says the Royals have interest in bringing Carlos Beltran back to Kansas City and maybe signing Rafael Furcal as a second baseman. Furcal may have enough suitors to remain at shortstop if he wants.
- A Twins source tells 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson that "we can only hope" on the possibility of A.J. Pierzynski signing with the team. Wolfson notes that Pierzynski might be more apt to sign with a contender, however. The Twins are rumored to be taking an interest in the catching market since Joe Mauer will be a full-time first baseman in 2014.
- With Rick Porcello reportedly being shopped, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wonders the Tigers and Twins could swing an intra-division trade.
- In his latest piece on fixing the Twins, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN looks at how much money Minnesota can spend this winter and how they can best allocate it.
- While the top catching option available (Brian McCann) could land a nine-figure deal, the White Sox appear to match up with free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. Chicago would like an improvement behind the plate after neither Tyler Flowers nor Josh Phegley impressed last season.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
The Max Scherzer trade rumors don't make much sense to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, who argues that a Tigers club built to win in 2014 can't afford to move an ace pitcher unless another team makes "an incredibly loony price" in a trade. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore hears from a source who flatly denies that Scherzer will be dealt, and Kilgore wonders if the Tigers' alleged willingness to trade may hint at concerns about Scherzer's future performance.
Here are some items about notable arms that could be had via trade or free agency this offseason...
- The Nationals have the minor league depth to acquire the likes of Scherzer or David Price, Kilgore writes. It could be more likely that the Nats pursue a younger pitcher who is under control for more years, a la the team's deal for Gio Gonzalez.
- Shelby Miller is "an under-the-radar potential [trade] target," a baseball official opines to Kilgore. Miller pitched just one postseason inning for the Cardinals due to concerns that he had a tired arm, though Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that were rumors that Miller was really being saved for a possible trade this winter. I'm not sure if I believe that theory; you'd think the Cards would've had all healthy arms on deck in pursuit of a World Series.
- The Cubs are interested in Masahiro Tanaka, GM Jed Hoyer told David Kaplan on WGN Radio's The David Kaplan Show (Twitter link). "He's going to help somebody and we will be in on him," Hoyer said.
- Matt Sosnick, Josh Johnson's agent, says he has talked to "nearly every team" about his client, including the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports. The Rangers appeal to Johnson due to their winning ways because he lives in nearby Oklahoma, though since Sosnick says Johnson would prefer "at least a pitching-neutral ballpark," Rangers Ballpark might be a hindrance.
- The Angels' signing of starter Chris Volstad could spell trouble for starters Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles TImes. Volstad is cheap and young, and DiGiovanna says that the club may not see much difference between him and the club's pricier, pre-existing options. In his breakdown of the Halos' arbitration-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes calls Hanson a definite non-tender candidate, and says Williams could also be shown the door.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden speculates about six possible David Price trades (ESPN Insider subscription required).
MLBTR's Jeff Todd also contributed to this post
The Rockies only won 74 games in 2013 but senior VP of baseball operations Bill Geivett believes his club is close to contending. "We like our core group of guys. We feel like we have a good crew to build around. I know some people disagree, but we don't feel that we are that far away," Geivett tells Troy Renck of the Denver Post, though he noted that the Rockies need Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to be healthy to make this happen. Here's the latest out of Denver...
- Geivett again stressed that the Rockies aren't interested in trading Tulowitzki or Gonzalez. Renck agrees, saying "a dramatic shift would have to occur in their thinking this offseason for trade talks to get going" (Twitter link).
- That said, Renck believes the Cardinals will at least "make the call" to gauge interest in Tulowitzki. Renck notes that it would take several of St. Louis' top prospects to make such a trade plausible. Earlier today, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal proposed an Allen Craig/Shelby Miller/Trevor Rosenthal package plus a lesser prospect and Colorado paying some of the $130MM remaining on Tulowitzki's salary, though Rosenthal admitted that a Tulowitzki trade is a "longshot."
- The Rockies are interested in free agent starter Tim Hudson, Renck reports (via Twitter). This makes Colorado the ninth team known to have an interest in the righty and Renck says "roughly 15 teams" comprise Hudson's market.
- Carlos Beltran has been a Rockies target in the past and MLB.com's Thomas Harding wouldn't be surprised to see the team attempt to sign the veteran slugger this winter. Beltran would take over in right while Michael Cuddyer would move to first.
- Also from Harding, the Rockies are expected to inquire about Josh Johnson. It doesn't seem like Johnson would be a fit, as since the right-hander is looking for a one-year deal to rebuild his value, he isn't likely to take such a contract at Coors Field.
The Blue Jays will not be making a qualifying offer to righty Josh Johnson, MLBTR has learned. Even after a lost season wrecked by injuries, there was a small chance that the Jays would overpay to get the 29-year-old under contract for 2014. Had the Blue Jays made the $14.1MM qualifying offer, it's likely Johnson would have accepted, as he's not expected to reach that salary on the open market.
Johnson, profiled by MLBTR here, ranked 30th on our Top 50 Free Agents list. He's expected to be ready for Spring Training after elbow surgery this month, and will be seeking a one-year deal to rebuild value. A few days ago, agent Matt Sosnick told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, "If Toronto doesn't make a qualifying offer, we'll probably be looking for a good pitching atmosphere, a good defense behind him and a team with a good chance to win."
Let's take a look around the developing starting pitching market ...
- The Blue Jays are still deciding whether or not to make Josh Johnson a qualifying offer, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Davidi says that the hurler's health is the primary consideration, and adds that he would be "a near certainty to accept if he gets an offer." Johnson's agent, Matt Sosnick, told Davidi that he has not "talked about it much" with club GM Alex Anthopoulos, but said there were "good reasons to qualify [Johnson] or not qualify him."
- Sosnick also spoke with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, providing a host of good information on Johnson, who he says may still receive (and could accept) a qualifying offer from Toronto. If Johnson hits the open market, his agent says he will certainly seek a one-year deal "to rebuild his value." With no interest in a multi-year deal, contract negotiations figure to be simplified somewhat, and could open the door to more teams with interest. Sosnick says Johnson is "looking for a good pitching atmosphere, a good defense behind him and a team with a good chance to win." He predicts that the big righty is "probably going to be the most approached free-agent pitcher out there" and will ultimately land a deal "somewhere around what the qualifying offer is."
- Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff threw some cold water on the possibility of a move on Johnson, Berardino further reports. Radcliff said that Johnson is coming off of a "horrible" year and "if he wants $10 million, we're not going to be involved with that."
- Sosnick reps not only Johnson, but fellow free agents Ricky Nolasco and Randy Messenger. He says that the Twins seem to have interest in every member of that trio, but his "sense is they're most interested in Nolasco."
- One other possible target for Minnesota is Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com (via Twitter). Of course, Jimenez is widely expected to come with draft compensation attached, though the Twins enjoy a protected top-ten pick (fifth overall). The team has apparently told at least one free agent's representatives that it will be aggressive on the market.
- The Dodgers could conceivably hatch a strategy to trade for David Price and add Masahiro Tanaka via the posting process, a rival GM tells Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. By doing that instead of signing a top free agent starter, the club could avoid the loss of its first-round draft choice and the bonus pool allocation that comes with it. Of course, the Dodgers would need to part with more advanced talent to snag Price.
Before the season began, Blue Jays righty Josh Johnson ranked third on my Free Agent Power Rankings, which serves as an example of how tantalizing his abilities can be. He lasted four starts before hitting the DL with triceps tightness. He returned over a month later and made another dozen starts before a forearm injury ended his season. On October 1st, Johnson had arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies and a bone spur in his elbow, and he's expected to be ready for Spring Training. Let's take a look at his free agent prospects after the lost season.
Johnson is one of the hardest-throwing free agent starters, as his average fastball velocity of 92.8 miles per hour this year was bested only by Garza. He finished fourth in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.18. Even in a year in which almost nothing went right, Johnson still threw hard and whiffed more than a batter per inning.
Prior to 2013, Johnson had a reputation of a pitcher who would spend some time on the DL, but would be excellent when he was on the mound. He posted a 3.14 ERA over 904 1/3 innings from 2006-12. During that time period, his ERA ranked sixth in all of baseball among those with at least 800 innings. Johnson pitched like an ace for the Marlins from 2009-10, with a 2.80 ERA over 392 2/3 innings. Only four pitchers were better. He made the All-Star team in both seasons, and finished fifth in the 2010 NL Cy Young voting after posting a 2.30 ERA.
Given his rough 2013 campaign, Johnson is highly unlikely to receive a qualifying offer, so he won't come with a draft pick cost attached.
Johnson's recent elbow surgery could be construed as a positive, as Dr. James Andrews told the pitcher he thought the bone spurs were the cause of his struggles this year, agent Matt Sosnick told MLBTR.
Johnson is a starting pitcher who tossed fewer than 1,000 innings over an eight-year span, as he's been injured a ton. In 2006, his first full season, he was done on September 12th due to a forearm strain. He began the '07 season on the DL with ulnar nerve irritation in his right biceps. After beginning his season in June of that year, he made four starts before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in August. His recovery was short, as he was back on a Major League mound in less than a year.
Johnson was injury-free in '09, and signed a four-year extension after that season. Though he technically avoided the DL in his fantastic 2010 campaign, his last start came on September 4th due to shoulder inflammation and a back strain. He hit the DL with shoulder inflammation in May 2011, and wasn't able to return from the injury that year, finishing with only nine starts. The mostly-healthy 2009-10 seasons showed Johnson bounced back well from Tommy John surgery, but '11 reintroduced the idea that he was injury-prone. He bounced back in 2012, avoiding the DL and making 31 starts. Johnson didn't pitch at his previous ace level, but he re-established enough hope to be a major part of the November blockbuster with Toronto.
As mentioned in the introduction of this post, Johnson endured separate injuries in 2013 involving his triceps and elbow, culminating in surgery. He made a lot of bad pitches, allowing 11.6 hits and 1.66 home runs per nine innings, leading to a career-worst 6.20 ERA in 81 1/3 innings. Even if we give him a pass for Tommy John surgery early in his career, Johnson has had three healthy seasons in the last five. He hasn't had an ace-caliber healthy season since 2010, calling into question whether he can return to that level for 180 innings. After 2013, his ability and durability must be questioned. With only one 200-inning season in his career, Johnson is the polar opposite of a dependable, low-upside arm like Bronson Arroyo.
Josh is married with two children, and they reside in Las Vegas during the offseason. He's a big golfer who plays to a 1 handicap.
Sosnick told MLBTR Johnson loved playing for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, and bought into the vision of GM Alex Anthopoulos. The pitcher has interest in returning to the Jays. If a reunion doesn't happen, pretty much any team could explore a deal, since the risk will be limited to one year. The Cubs, Rays, Mets, Rangers, Pirates, Nationals, Twins, Indians, and Athletics are some teams that have shown a willingness in recent years to sign free agent starting pitcher projects.
A one-year deal free of options is in the cards for Johnson, as he aims to rebuild value with a healthy 2014. The gold standard contract for a pitcher coming off an injury is the one-year, $10MM deal Ben Sheets signed with the Athletics after missing all of 2009. Though that contract is almost four years old, I see it as the ceiling for Johnson. Ultimately, I predict a one-year, $8MM deal, with significant incentives in the $4-6MM range.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Righty Josh Johnson underwent minor elbow surgery this morning to remove bone spurs, agent Matt Sosnick tells MLBTR. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure, telling Johnson he feels the discomfort caused by the spurs was the cause of his struggles with the Blue Jays this year. No issues were found with Johnson's elbow ligament. Johnson will be throwing in five weeks, and will be ready for spring training.
Johnson, 30 in January, is eligible for free agency for the first time this offseason. His season in Toronto did not go as planned, ending in August with the elbow issue. He made 16 starts, posting a 6.20 ERA despite a good strikeout to walk ratio.
Sosnick, who also represents free agent hurler Ricky Nolasco, tells MLBTR Johnson will absolutely consider signing with the Blue Jays if they do not make a qualifying offer. Johnson loved playing for manager John Gibbons, and bought into the vision of GM Alex Anthopoulos. A one-year deal with incentives seems likely for Johnson.
Heading into the offseason, we can be sure of seeing the usual collection of low-risk deals for formerly marquee free-agent starting pitchers. Last winter, the Pirates struck gold with a one-year, incentive-laden deal for Francisco Liriano, as he's generated 3.0 fWAR this season while making just $1MM. Though they'll require larger commitments, two starters hitting the free agent market this offseason, Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay, offer similar ace potential and are also likely to be had relatively cheaply. They're up next in our Free Agent Faceoff series.
When I asked last week in a poll, just 29 percent of you said the Blue Jays should extend Johnson a qualifying offer this offseason after an injury-marred 2013. This season was certainly a disappointing one for the right-hander, as his 6.20 ERA was the worst of his career if you ignore 2007, when he threw just 15 2/3 innings. However, I made the case that Johnson was among the most unlucky starters in baseball this season, as 18.5 percent of his fly balls went for home runs. That's likely to fall, as it's double his career mark of 8.2 percent. When Johnson's healthy, he can be as dominant as any starter in baseball, as his lifetime 3.40 ERA attests to. He's just rarely healthy for a full season. Any acquiring team will hope that the 29-year-old can recapture some of his 2010 magic, when he managed an acceptable 183 2/3 innings and led the NL in ERA.
Halladay's 2013 mark of 6.71 ERA in 61 2/3 innings was one of several troubling statistics for the right-hander in 2013, a year that also saw his average two-seam fastball velocity fall to just 88.7 mph. That's a concerning figure for a 36-year-old who missed significant time with a shoulder injury. Halladay's 5.0 BB/9 rate and 1.8 HR/9 rate were also his highest since 2000, when he was in his early 20s. At this point in Halladay's career, we may just be seeing the decline of a pitcher whose right arm logged more than 1,400 innings over a six-year period from 2006-2011. However, there's also no ignoring the fact that he has two Cy Young Awards to his name. If Halladay can prove that he's healthy, that sterling resume is sure to loom large in the evaluation process for many clubs.
In Johnson and Halladay, we have two starters who succumbed to injuries in 2013 but are likely to draw significant interest as former top-of-the-rotation starters. Johnson has dominated in the past when healthy, and though he hasn't had the career Halladay has, he has youth on his side at age 29. Halladay is a much older 36, but he was also among the best pitchers in baseball over that 2006-2011 span. Who would you rather have?
It was on this day in 1914 that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run. Playing for the Providence Grays of the International League, Ruth went yard during a road game in Toronto, an occasion marked by a historical plaque at Hanlan's Point. This was the only homer the Bambino would ever hit in the minors, as he spent the entire 1915 season with the Red Sox and never again visited the farm during his legendary career.
Here are some notes from around the AL East...
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos' job isn't in jeopardy, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes as part of a reader mailbag. Anthopoulos "appears to have the full backing" of upper management and should continue to do so for at least the next couple of seasons, though obviously the Jays will be expected to contend at some point. Earlier today, Anthopoulos discussed a number of topics in an interview on Sportsnet 590 radio.
- Also from Chisholm, he predicts that if the Blue Jays don't extend a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and he hits the open market, Johnson will likely sign a one-year contract with an NL team to try and re-establish his value for the 2015 free agent market.
- Wilson Betemit's time with the Orioles is probably coming to an end, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes that the O's "likely won't pick up" the $3.2MM option on his contract for 2014. Betemit has missed almost all of the season recovering from March knee surgery and the team already seems to have moved on, as Betemit has only nine plate appearances over five games since returning from the DL.
- St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster criticized MLB in a memo updating his city council about the Rays' stadium issue, Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Also in the piece, Puente notes that the Rays' ongoing search for a new ballpark could be an issue for Foster in November's mayoral election.
- Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's history with Daniel Bard made it no surprise that the Cubs would acquire the struggling right-hander on a waiver claim from the Red Sox, manager John Farrell said. Farrell told reporters, including MLB.com's Jason Mastrodonato, that his team didn't have the time or roster space to nurture Bard back to form but he thinks Bard can do it. "I guess the most important thing is that we wish him well. We hope he gets back on track. There's still a good pitcher in there once he gets back on track," Farrell said.
- From earlier today around the AL East, the Astros claimed Eric Thames off waivers from the Orioles, the Nationals claimed Mauro Gomez off waivers from the Blue Jays and the Red Sox aren't sure if they'll be willing to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury if it will cost much beyond $100MM.
It's been a disappointing season for the Blue Jays, who announced earlier this week that Jose Bautista would be shut down through season's end. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos made a radio appearance with Greg Brady and Jim Lang on Sportsnet 590 earlier today to discuss the team (audio link). For those who don't have time to listen to the whole interview, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith has transcribed Anthopoulos' comments. Here are some more highlights...
- The Blue Jays were focused on adding quality innings to their rotation this past offseason, as evidenced by the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. One element Anthopoulos says the Jays should have been more focused on is the team's defense. He also stresses it's important to reassess their thinking from last offseason: "You have to look back. If you're going to be arrogant and stubborn and think you had all the answers and 'oh it just didn't work out,' I don't think you're going to get any better."
- Anthopoulos feels that, from a defensive standpoint, rookie Ryan Goins could be the best second baseman the Blue Jays have had since Orlando Hudson in his prime. Indeed, both UZR/150 (+40.6) and The Fielding Bible (+6 runs) rave about Goins defense in an admittedly microscopic 99-inning sample size. He adds that over the past month, Brett Lawrie has been as locked-in defensively (and offensively) as he's ever been.
- The Blue Jays will talk to their medical and training staff and try to decide by mid-October whether or not they will extend a qualfying offer of roughly $14MM to Johnson.
- Anthopoulos called Ricky Romero on the phone late in August to see how the left-hander was feeling. He asked where Romero was at in terms of wanting to come up for September, and whether heading home for the winter to be away from the grind of a long season was the best thing for him from a mental standpoint. Romero wanted to come up and be a part of the team, even with no guarantee of innings pitched or appearances. Anthopoulos adds that he told Romero, who is owed $7.5MM in 2014 and 2015, that he will likely be removed from the 40-man roster again this winter. Romero will be given a clean slate in 2014 and a chance to win a spot on the roster, according to the GM.
- Asked about the possibility of listening to trade offers on Bautista, Anthopoulos replied: "I always [listen on every player], and I tell the players that and I've had players ask me. As a policy, we don't have no-trade clauses on this team, and the question always comes up, 'Well, do you think I might get traded?' and so on. I tell them, 'Look, if I can guarantee you wouldn't get traded, I'd be very comfortable giving you a full no-trade, and we wouldn't have to have this discussion.'" Anthopoulos said it's very hard to trade his best players though, as it's usually a case of creating a new hole in order to fill an existing one.
- The Blue Jays are encouraged by the strong second-half showings of Dickey and Buehrle and will likely look to add another arm to the rotation via free agency or trade.