For whatever rumours this time of year are worth, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN tweets some news– or, perhaps some non-news, which… if you read the title of this post you’ll already know about– regarding the Jays plans for Josh Johnson:
Rival execs hearing #bluejays have no plans to shop Josh Johnson at trade deadline. It appears he’s staying put.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 17, 2013
There are a number of things we can take from this.
First, let’s get the usual caveats out of the way. For one, as Alex Anthopoulos would be quick to point out, plans can change. So the notion of there being “no plans” at the moment doesn’t mean a whole lot. Nor does any rumour surrounding the Jays, of course– and, as John Lott deliciously scoffs, this is week-old news to the reporters here in Toronto.
On the other hand, Alex Anthopoulos may simply be trying to ratchet up his leverage with an eye towards Johnson being a prize acquisition for the losers of the bidding on Matt Garza.
The more you think about it, however, the more it really doesn’t make a lot of sense that the plans would change.
Johnson, assuming you believe he can pitch a whole lot better than he’s shown so far, is a devalued asset at the moment, so the thoughts of Anthopoulos ninjutsu-ing some kind of magical return for him are pretty fanciful, and not likely to be changed by two or three strong starts coming out of the break.
If he were Garza– or even, y’know, half the guy we hoped we might get– the consideration might be different. But even then, with the club still nominally in the race, you might worry a little bit about selling off such a key piece and upsetting the remaining guys in the room, who still surely believe they can get back into this thing. I mean, I wouldn’t be terribly worried about that– Mike Cormack noted on Tuesday’s Baseball Central on the Fan 590 that players were upset last year when the front office didn’t do more to help them, and though things maybe went a little bit nutty in the final two playing-out-the-string months of 2012, it’s hard to find a negative impact of any of that here in 2013– but you might.
Of course, you’re possibly damned if you do and damned if you don’t if you care about that stuff– yet another reason not to care so much– because Johnson may wind up unhappy if he’s not traded. That’s because if he stays the full year with the Jays and is tendered a qualifying offer in the $15-million neighbourhood this winter, there will be a first round draft pick attached to him, should he choose to decline and enter the free agent market. If he’s dealt, the compensation pick goes away, and the market for him next winter expands greatly. With the pick around his neck, however, it may be tough sledding on the open market– ask Kyle Lohse (who… actually ended up doing pretty OK for himself)– and he and agent Matt Sosnick may well decide that accepting the qualifying offer and trying to build value in 2014 is the best option.
And as sour as Jays fans may be on Johnson at this point, I think the club would view that as a pretty terrific outcome (not that they wouldn’t like the draft pick and the $15-million all the same). After all, there’s no such thing as a bad one-year deal, and these are the same Jays who had money approved from ownership early in the winter to go after the similarly flaky Jake Peavy, who had a $22-million option for this year (with a $4-million buyout you’d assume the White Sox would have remained on the hook for).
On the other hand, with commitments for 2014 already totaling $110-million (according to Cot’s, before arbitration raises and options potentially picked up on Lind and Janssen), adding Johnson at $15-million would take the payroll well above the $120-million level it sits at this year. You have to wonder if that’s even tenable, yet maybe the concerns are mitigated if the club sells a little hope and keeps attendance and TV revenues high in the back half of the season.
Much less cynical is this view:
— Mark Paradiso (@MParadiso) July 17, 2013
It would be tough to swallow for a lot of fans, I think, but with Johnson still here, plus Dickey, Buehrle, Esmil Rogers, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ, and all kinds of minor league depth potential (Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin, Marcus Stroman, and eventually even Aaron Sanchez), the status quo truly isn’t that objectionable. There really is no reason that group can’t, in some form, be a very good staff. No, really!
Shit, beyond just that, maybe now is the time to try to extend Johnson, even. Offer him that $15-million you’re planning to anyway, plus a similarly priced option or two with enough buyout money to entice him into accepting and avoiding year-to-year Type-A purgatory. Maybe I’m crazy or missing something, but at this point, with a $15-million qualifying offer on the horizon, what if you offer him something like $15-million plus a $15-million club option for 2015 with a $3-million buyout? He’s guaranteed either $18-million and free agency next winter anyway, or $30-million and free agency the year after (albeit at age 32).
Unless he’s hellbent on declining the offer and hitting the market this winter regardless (and he may well be– and may well be smart to do so), doesn’t he have to think about it? And wouldn’t gambling the buyout money on getting a 2015 option for essentially the same deal they’re going to offer in November regardless be a sensible thing for the Jays?
Uh… maybe? I don’t know! I’m sure not a lot of Jays fans are thinking, yeah, get this guy locked up for two more years! But if something like that would work for the player– and his value in the industry being so tough to gauge right now, I have no idea if it does– I think it might be pretty alright. I think. Maybe.