Matt Sosnick is about as upfront as it gets. And while I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of dealings with player agents in the baseball world, I suspect that’s a fairly rare quality. It certainly makes him an excellent radio show guest, especially at a time like this, with his client and his team struggling so badly, and that’s why I’m hardly surprised that he said something noteworthy when he appeared with Jeff Blair on the Fan 590 yesterday morning (audio here).
It’s certainly not how I heard it, but the description of the conversation on the Fan’s audio on demand page tells listeners that “despite an awful season thus far, Matt Sosnick still expects that his client, Josh Johnson, can sign a monster contract if they elect to choose free agency this off-season.”
Sosnick did use those sorts of terms at one point, though I don’t think expects is the right word at all.
“He’s a guy who had a chance, going into the season, to sign a Sabbathia-type contract if he went out and had a Cy Young-type year,” he says, early on in the interview– “had,” I think, perhaps being the operative word.
“If he’s over [his past injury issues], he’s a guy who can sign a monster contract,” he added, and then later emphasized the anomaly that this season has been for Johnson, and says that his sense is that he’s going to turn it around this year.
I suppose you could combine the fact that he expects him to turn it around with the fact that a healthy and productive Johnson would be in line for a monster deal and come to the same conclusion that the Fan did, but later on Sosnick got much more realistic about what’s in store for his client, given the way things currently stand.
Calling this winter’s free agent pitching market possibly the worst in the last ten or fifteen years, he added, “It doesn’t look like Josh will be part of it now.”
The reason he says so, which is pretty obvious, ties into an explanation that followed a minute or two later.
Asked whether he’d had any talks about an extension with the Jays for Johnson, with the thought of sticking around and pitching his value back up, Sosnick replied:
I mean, so… here’s the thing. Based on the way the collective bargaining agreement was negotiated, Alex has the right to offer him a qualifying offer. I think this year it’s going to be just south of $14-million. And if Alex believes he’s a one or two starter, and he believes the team he put together is capable of winning a World Series– and, I’ll be honest with you, I believed before the season started that Toronto was going to win the World Series. If he thinks that guys are going to bounce back, and that the team he has is the right team– and there’s nothing Alex has done as a GM that would lead me to believe anything besides the fact that he has a master plan, and the master plan is going to work– he’s probably going to tender Josh and hang a compensation on him. As you saw with Lohse, it certainly effects– you know, teams are a lot more willing to give up a draft pick for a guy with a three-five [note: a 3.50 ERA, I assume] than a four-five. And it certainly effects their value, because teams guard not only that pick, but the pool money that comes with it. So, for Alex, if he puts the tag on him– I think he will– he’s basically saying, “Hey, I’m willing to roll the dice for $14-million on Josh Johnson again, because if he’s who I think he is, he’s a one or a two starter.” And one and two starters, a one-year, $14-million deal for a guy like that is a great deal.
I think it’s pretty realistic, at least given the way things stand here on July 26th.
Anthopoulos clearly believed in the talent and would surely hate to see Johnson rebound next year in another uniform after letting him walk for nothing. And even with the dearth of free agent pitching options, Johnson’s market is looking like it would fairly soft even without the draft pick tied around his neck.
Maybe Sosnick is doing a little negotiating through the media here, playing to Alex’s ego while figuring that a $14-million pillow is about the best his client is going to be able to do– he’s an agent, so you’ve got to be at least somewhat skeptical– but I really do think it’s just an honest assessment.
Judging by all the guffawing at umpteen thoroughly unoriginal “the next bus outta town!” cracks I saw this week in response to my post that asked, Where Does Josh Johnson Go From Here?, a lot fans aren’t going to be happy if it turns out that a qualifying offer deal is just too much in the interest of both parties for either to turn down, but it sure sounds great to me.
No, really. As bad as it’s been this season– and I’m not trying to pretend it hasn’t been horrendously awful– I still believe there’s talent there, and that you just don’t normally get arms like his without being on the hook long-term and for a lot of money. I mean, think of the extension scenarios fans were dreaming about over the winter, and when Johnson was in the midst of a spectacular Spring Training. Giving him $14-million to see if this season is just a blip and he can go back to being what he was in 2012 (understanding, of course, that without the velocity the days of his being a true number one are long gone) really isn’t so bad. It can’t go worse, right? I mean… probably, right?