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.