As you may have already heard us discuss on this week’s podcast, there’s a rather interesting piece this afternoon from Shi Davidi over at Sportsnet, as he spoke with Matt Sosnick, the agent for Josh Johnson, about the pitcher’s possible future in Toronto.

You might want to sit down for this, but his view is that his client is still in line for a pretty significant payday.

Sosnick, as I’ve said any time I’ve quoted him around here, is refreshingly forthright– and much of that comes through in Davidi’s piece. For example, Sosnick tells him that “he’s not interested in signing a multi-year contract,” which would seem to rule out whatever a little bird told Dave Perkins last week– which I wrote about on Monday.

Of course… uh… he’s still an agent:

“I believe there will be between six and eight teams that will offer him between $10-15 million,” says Sosnick. “It’s money that gets eaten in trades at the deadline all the time, and you can get a Cy Young type guy. The question for Alex is can he replace the potential Josh is going to give him and is he willing to absorb the risk? I don’t know what the answers are, but we’re certainly hoping that he has a chance, no matter what he’s offered somewhere else, to go out and make good in Toronto.

“My personal hope is that Josh has a chance to go back and to perform and help the team win. I think he feels like he’d like to be successful in Toronto, and validate his part of Alex’s deal.”

I think somebody stands a pretty OK chance of getting a bargain on Johnson. But not at that price– at least not if you’re the Jays, and your budget is anything close to what we might reasonably think it’s going to be.

Per Cot’s, the Jays currently have $110-million committed for 2014, the breakdown of which is as follows:

Mark Buehrle ($19M), Jose Reyes ($16M), Jose Bautista ($14M), R.A. Dickey ($12M), Edwin Encarnacion ($9M), Melky Cabrera ($8M), Brandon Morrow ($8M), Ricky Romero ($7.75M), J.A. Happ ($5.2M), Sergio Santos ($3.75M), Maicer Izturis ($3M), Adam Lind ($2M buyout), Dustin McGowan ($1.5M), Josh Thole ($1.25M), Mark DeRosa ($25K buyout).

Pick up the options on Lind ($5M more), DeRosa ($725K more), and Janssen ($4M), plus the arbitration raise that will go to Colby Rasmus (around $6.5M, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet), and at least another $5- or $6-million for pre-arb guys, and your total commitments jump to over $130-million.

Add $10-million for Johnson and your roster is pretty close to already being set, isn’t it?

I mean, obviously they’ll try to move some money around to help, but how are they realistically going to do that while staying competitive?

Buehrle has pitched well enough that a rival club might be willing to unburden the Jays of some of that salary, but not in exchange for a whole lot– certainly not with something significant coming back the other way, unless the Jays eat more, which kind of puts them in the same place they already are, minus 200 reliably solid innings. They might be able to scrape a little bit of savings by dealing a Happ or a Romero or a Melky Cabrera for very little in return, but… not really. They could get something for Dickey, though it would be a fraction of what they gave up and would rob them of a key innings eater with (no, really) Cy Young upside. They could probably get something for Brandon Morrow, but not likely as much as he’d provide, if healthy. They could deal Rasmus and go with Anthony Gose in centre, but… I don’t know about that.

And, of course, the notions of dealing guys the team is built around, and relying on to carry the load offensively, like Bautista, Encarnacion, or Reyes– as much as that may keep talk radio tongues wagging– are as far fetched as they are impractical.

And, I mean, while I know that the upside on Johnson is huge– even the new Johnson, whose fastball averages a shade under 93, was worth more than three wins per both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs in 2012– is a gamble in the neighbourhood of $10-million that much more likely to pay off than a gamble on a league minimum guy like Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Sean Nolin or Marcus Stroman? Or Todd Redmond or Esmil Rogers.

More importantly, is the difference between what Johnson may bring and what the best of those four might bring worth the difference between $10-million and the league minimum?

It actually might be. If the Jays want to contend marginal wins are vital, the 191 innings and 3+ wins Johnson managed in 2012– which I think at this points represents a reasonable upside– aren’t as replaceable as they may look on the surface. Especially not when you’re asking that of guys coming back from Tommy John, guys who’ve never come close to those kinds of innings totals, or guys with spotty track records– at best.

If the Jays can take their payroll high enough above the $130-million that’s already basically committed to roll the dice on Johnson at that price and make a legitimate run at the likes of Brian McCann, Matt Garza, or Masahiro Tanaka, then sure, there’s value in it. Or if the club thinks that they can fit Johnson and another arm into their budget, while going after cheaper upgrades behind the plate and at second base– which only need to be improved to average in order to be wildly better than they’ve been this year– maybe it’s still not the worst idea.

But I get the feeling that the Jays could use that kind of money– which I strongly suspect will be in the budget, given that ownership has known all along that the commitments for 2014 were coming, and the club would have to either re-sign or qualify Johnson, or have his expected production otherwise replaced– a little more wisely.

That assumes, of course, that Sosnick and his client really believe that’s the type of market that’s out there. For what it’s worth, a point in their favour this week came from Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, who suggested that, unless the Jays know Johnson’s arm is about to fall off, they should make him a qualifying offer.

Shit, I argued for most of the summer that they ought to make him the qualifying offer– even if it meant an overpay, if only to keep his kind of talent in the organization– but obviously I’m wavering on that. It really depends on the total budget and on his health.

But at less money that the posturing suggests, and maybe some incentives, and the equation very possibly changes. And if the Jays let Johnson hit the open market and the kind of offer they’re saying will exist isn’t there, then we could really be in business. That is, if he’s the man they want to be in business with.

Obviously Alex Anthopoulos likes the talent, or he wouldn’t have tried for so long to acquire him, so I still wouldn’t put it past him. And until we know what his other realistic options are it’s hard to say he’d be wrong. But man… that’s a lot of money to gamble out of a presumably-strapped budget on a team with a bunch of holes. A lot of money.

Comments (41)

  1. I wish Johnson had worked out better, but I think we should let him go. Think of it this way- if he’d been on someone else’s team this year, is there ANY chance the Jays would offer him 1-year, $14M. No way.

  2. I don’t want to see Johnson walk…..only causie supersitious paranoid me knows hes gonna light up next season for whatever team coughs up the cash

  3. “can he replace the potential Josh is going to give him”
    what a quote

  4. There’s a lot to be said for standing pat and bouncing back, but I’m not convinced that’s really AA’s m.o. Every offseason something catches us offguard, and it wouldn’t shock me if he turned and flipped someone unexpected for value.

  5. Hard to see how this team upgrades without pushing that payroll up quite a bit farther. Seems kinda nuts, but I don’t think Rogers could go all in like they did, only to pull back after a year anyway. They must have known this was likely in the cards, even if all had gone well.

    On the bright side, at least attendance picked up to the extent where its probably justified to bump payroll again.

    From 23rd in 2012 to 13th this year. Jays are currently drawing better than contenders Tampa Bay, Cleveland, KC, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. That’s pretty good considering how bad it’s been all year. Seems pretty clear that a playoff could yield huge results at the gate/tv ratings.

    • I wouldn’t even bet my Ricky Romero bobblehead on that (Jays being a playoff team next year).

      • attendance went up because there were more season tickets holders in 2013 that thought this team was going to be successful. My guess unless they do something impactful again in the offseason, attendance will be back to 2012 levels.

  6. He’ll go to Boston on a 1-year deal and have a great year because fuck all of us and our hopes and dreams as sports fans.

    • At first I was thinking him going to the Rays and kicking ass would be the worst, but I’ve changed my mind. Johnson going to Boston and doing good would be the insufferable nightmare ever. Ugh.

  7. I like the prospect of Tanaka, but we all now the dodges will overpay to acquire through the posting system.

    How much to acquire Cobb?

  8. I don’t want to pay $14 million to someone who will likely have Tommy John surgery next year,

    Could we not sign a 2 year deal for a decent catcher with that kind of cash?

    • No we couldn’t sign a C for that…. Because there are no “good” catchers to sign. McCann will be much more than that.

      JPA is terrible but don’t expect a big upgrade here. It just isn’t available outside of McCann or an unpredictable trade.

      I’d plan to give Thole the job next year and qualify Johnson. No. Really. He can atleast put up an .obp over .300 and plays better defense. If Johnson has the suitors that Sosnick claims then maybe he turns it down. If not you go into next year with 3 “CY Young” upside guys (for whatever that’s worth) and tonnes more depth than last year.

      I dont see how that’s do bad.

      Oh and sign Jhonny Pheralt for 2b. Shouldn’t cost too much given the peds suspension.

      • Thole has a .239 OBP this year, and had a .294 OBP last year. I know his career OBP is over .300, and he’s done well a few years past, but what makes you think that a catcher going into his age 28 season can be even average? I don’t see him being a solution unless we have a Robinson Cano type filling the hole at 2B.

        That said, I agree that filling the catcher’s spot is going to be very difficult. Few of them will be on the market who can be expected to be league average, and they’ll be expensive, too.

        Replacing the hole at 2B is likely easier, not because we are able to easily get Cano (no chance), but because getting someone who can be league average isn’t terribly difficult – see: Goins, Ryan.

        But it doesn’t look good. A lot of money is committed, and it’s kinda tough to get excited when you can so easily worry about injury concerns to Morrow, Bautista, EE, Santos, Lawrie, and Melky, who all need to have very good (and full) seasons for the Jays to compete.


  9. I still don’t get all the talk of moving Buerhle. He was our second best pitcher this year — I know, I know, we sucked this year — and is a guaranteed innings eater. Yes, he is being overpaid by a couple of million, but really, who will we replace him with? Is there someone realistic on the open market that will give us the same performance over 200 innings for a better price? Can we afford to have any combination of our rotation question marks — Morrow, Rogers, Hutch, Drabek, etc. without having a relative sure thing like Buerhle?
    I’d keep him… I think we’ll regret it if we don’t. WIthout him this year we probably would have had to field a bajillion different starters instead of the easier-to-stomach kazillion.

    • This. A thousand times this.

      We have a MASSIVE, GAPING hole on this team: starting pitching.

      Don’t tell me how we’ve got a whole fleet of people with bigger upside. We did this year. And last year. And we end up with guys like Wang starting games for us.

      In my mind, Buehrle is just about as close to untradeable as any Jay.

      • Agreed. As easy as it is to complain about Buerhle because he is slow as shit and he doesn’t stand out, he does a good job and is reliable. Keep Buerhle.

      • I’m prepared to disagree with this.

        Buerhle’s been worth 2.3 fWAR so far this year. By season’s end he’ll be worth, let’s say, 2.7. That works out to a salary in the 14 MM range, which is convenient, because it’s more than what he’s been earning this year ($11 MM). But next year he’ll be earning 18 million, and 19 after that. Even considering inflation, that means he’s got to earn 3-3.5 WAR in each of his age 35 and 36 seasons to be worth that money.

        It’s not that he can’t have another season like he has had this year (which has been just fine), but rather that he’s more likely to regress than to improve at this point in his career, and for him to be worth what he’s going to get paid, that’s exactly what he needs to do. If he has a 2 WAR season (which would be a reasonable amount of regression to expect), we’ll be a little disappointed that we’ve got 6-8 million tied up there that we could have used elsewhere (like on a catcher, where an additional 8 million per year above what they’re willing to commit to improve the position would make an enormous difference). If, however, he has a major regression or is injured – which I’ll say is unlikely given his consistency over the years, but is not impossible given his age – and has a 1 WAR season, that will be a ton of money being misspent.

        This isn’t about trying to save money, it’s about recognizing that the Jays, even with Rogers’ deep pockets, are at or near a fiscal ceiling, and that if they can sell high on Buerhle’s great season and pick up a piece or two that be a 2 WAR player while saving some money, that’s a smart move.

        • I don’t disagree with you. I just ask again — who do you replace him with?
          Are you happy going Dickey, Morrow, JJ, Happ, Rogers?
          Because I’m not.
          And if you name a guy on the open market that will go 500 or better, and has the track record of Buerhle, what do you think he’ll cost? And will he be as reliable?

      • I was actually looking at Buerhle’s numbers on Tuesday before his start vs. the Angels. Yes, he’s seemed much better the second half, but there’s this… Over the entire year he is 1-6 vs the AL East, the team is 4 -9. I know W’s and L’s mean not a whole lot so… He’s also given up 51 runs in 82.2 innings to the AL East. His worst starts of the second half are against Boston, Baltimore, and (I think) TB. He lucked into pitching a bunch against AL Central and Houston twice.

    • Agreed. Right now, we have two guys who are solid innings-eaters (Buerhle, Dickey) and a bunch of guys who have proven they can’t do that in the slightest (or have lost the ability to do that in Romero’s case). I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect anything from the likes of Romero, Happ, Morrow, Drabek, etc., etc. beyond replacement-level innings. We’re going to have a hard enough time with three holes in the rotation, let’s not add a fourth.

  10. I failed math class so having trouble relating. They may trade him , they may not. They’ll likey have to cough up 6m or so if they do, maybe more as I’ve posted earlier.
    Hey maybe we trade them Buerhle( 18m!) and Romero 7.m to LAA for Hamilton 26m.Hmmm

  11. If Johnson were to go for anywhere near the above, that could be my tipping point as a MLB fan.

  12. Cano can pitch I hear. Or, well, maybe he could talk to Santos and pick it up. 2B for 4 of 5, then SP for the 5th. Intentionally burn the DH on his starts. Golden!

  13. I suppose it would help to know what the maximum payroll budget Rogers will approve.

    If Rogers only gives AA 125M, then I think the 10 million would be better spent on upgrading C or 2B or get a mediocre free agent pitcher.

    Unfortunately, Johnson is very injury prone.

    Jays already have Morrow who is injury prone & who knows if Romero will make it back to the rotation.

    It’s funny that Buerhle at 19 million probably provides more value than Morrow & Romero at 16 million in 2014

  14. Assuming the Jays make a serious run at Tanaka and land him, I have no issue with the Jays offering JJ a QO. At this point, I wouldn’t want to rely on JJ to carry the staff, but I don’t want to write his obituary as a jays just yet.

    Spend whatever is left over on a 2B and accept that our priority behind the plate needs to be defense first (bye JPA).

  15. Fuck I accidentally just tweeted this …..sorry baby Jesus

  16. If you’re going to spend $14 million dollars on Josh Johnson, wouldn’t you rather try to sign a free agent AJ Burnett?

    At least he has a track record of looking somewhat decent in the American League East and doesn’t have the injury history of JJ.

    • He’s probably more expensive than that.

      The price of wins in free agency is only going to go up with all the extra TV money.

      Just look at what Kuroda got last year.

      But, yeah, I’d be down with AJ.

  17. I don’t think Johnson’s agent is necessarily wrong.

    Someone may very will give him $10 million for a year. Perhaps an NL team with a big ballpark.

    There is a lot of money in the game and more teams are trying to contend with the extra wildcards.

    That being said, I doubt it makes sense for the Jays to gamble on Johnson unless the payroll goes north of $150 million.

  18. JJ will not be a Jay next season. As a poster above put it, would the Jays trade for JJ after watching him this season? Obviously, not a chance. AA has a few things brewing and we’ll just have to watch and see how it all unfolds. It may surprise us, it often does. There’s also room to bump up the payroll too. Rogers is a better owner than they get credit for.

  19. Buehrle is owed 18 mil next year as per Baseball Reference

    Also, he is super reliable for the last dozen years, who knows what the future brings but 200 decent innings with very little unpredictability for 18,000,000 dollars doesn’t seem like that terrible a contract all things considered.

  20. I don’t get you Stoeten. You’re the first to dispel ridiculous dream signings and trades, yet here you are going on about upgrading at 2nd. There’s no great fielding / great hitting 2b on the FA market that won’t have compensation attached. You must recognize this or why would you float Kendrick. The Jays don’t really have assets to acquire top tier players, like Kendrick, in trade. You must recognize this or why would you float Happ and Romero for Kendrick…

    McCann is provably worth surrendering a pick for, but do you really see the Jays signing a guy who’s going to cost $20 mil at least plus a pick??

    In this post you allude to realistic expectations for the Jays payroll. Fair enough – then how can you bring in McCann and a top shelf 2b and a #1/2 starter??!

  21. [...] at Drunk Jays Fans, Andrew Stoeten addresses the comments from Josh Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick. Sosnick seems [...]

  22. Obviously they just need to increase the budget to like 190 mil.
    *snaps fingers*

  23. [...] Josh Johnson’s agent is under the impression that he’s still going to get some (relatively) big money, so all of us Jays fans hoping to bring him back on a bargain better get ready for what he’s going to get. [DJF] [...]

  24. Personally, I’d love to see the Jays do something super unorthodox, like run a 3-man rotation with the cast of Johnny Bullpen as 4th and 5th starters, esp. given that it suits their strength (if you can call it that) of having a bunch of guys who can pitch well for a turn or two through the lineup, but can’t really cut it as consistent starters.

    But I know it’s not going to happen. Would be fun to see, though.

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