Josh Johnson Rumors


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



Starting Pitching Notes: Scherzer, Nats, Miller, Tanaka

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



Rockies Notes: Tulo, Hudson, Beltran, Johnson

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.



Josh Johnson Not Getting Qualifying Offer

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."



Starter Notes: Johnson, Nolasco, Jimenez, Dodgers

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.



Free Agent Profile: Josh Johnson

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.

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Pros/Strengths

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.

Weaknesses/Cons

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.

Personal

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.

Market

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.

Expected Contract

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.



Josh Johnson Has Elbow Surgery; Expected To Be Ready For Spring Training

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.









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