As you’ve probably heard by now, last night pending free agent Tim Lincecum eschewed the market and re-upped with the San Francisco Giants. And why the hell wouldn’t he, with the contract they offered him?

Drew goes over the particulars at Getting Blanked, as he admittedly finds himself “searching desperately for silver linings to Tim Lincecum’s two-year, $35 million contract.” The big one for me, and as it pertains to the Blue Jays, is what he lists as “Reality #5 - Baseball salaries are not what they once were.”

He explains:

“Your idea and my idea of a bad contract is about to take a significant hit. The economic environment didn’t change overnight but the salaries we see now and will continue to see are going to blow your mind. If we, as a baseball consuming public, can’t get our heads around this, then every single contract will look like an overpay. Your $/WAR calculator needs an OS upgrade, bro. Welcome to the New Tomorrow.”

That’s the rub. And it’s very clearly worked into how Danny Knobler– the Knobler!– explained the Giants’ end of the deal, which I think happens to be a bang-on assessment:

Not only do they think the market for pitching is going to get crazy– and… uh… about that… uh… an ESPN New York report suggests the Yankees could be on the verge of a massive spending spree– but they valued the certainty, both in terms of cost and in terms of getting him to put his name on a contract.

In other words, legitimately, I think, they feared the huge risks of letting him walk and committing themselves to finding a replacement for those innings on the open market. Plus, as Drew tries to indicate in his piece, Lincecum’s performance wasn’t maybe as bad as it seems on the surface.

The same can’t be said about Josh Johnson’s disastrous 2013, but there are still some parallels in terms of cost certainty, which leads us to this:

Yikes. But you know what? Not entirely crazy. The devil you know, and all that.

More importantly: the devil you know you can sign, because as ass-bonkers as the market may be getting, there is no way a team parts with a top draft pick and over $14-million just to get Johnson. The Jays, on the other hand, have zero certainty anywhere else, and a pitcher who’ll command one of the market’s bigger one-year deals just sitting there for the taking.

The warts on Johnson were painfully obvious for everyone to see this season, which I’m sure makes the prospect of his return especially vomitous to the pouting negative suckholes who can’t wrap their heads around how rare it actually is to find a pitcher with a track record of health and performance as good as even just his 2012 season.

To wit: this season fewer than 30 pitchers matched or bettered the 3.5 fWAR Johnson put up over 191 innings in 2012. The same was true of that season, and the same was true of the season before that. And only 18 pitchers appear on those lists more than once– with only eight doing so all three times.

By the Baseball Reference version of the metric Johnson was worth 3.3 wins, which is a total fewer than 40 pitchers matched or bettered this season– and, as with fWAR, the same can be said of 2012 and 2011 as well.

Believe it or not, then, even when he was the new, post-injury pitcher that we saw back in Spring Training, before it all derailed so badly, he was a very scarce commodity.

Is it scary that he made just nine big league starts in the year before that season, and just 16 in the year after? Of course it is. But if you shift the arbitrary endpoints just slightly, you can also say that he pitched more than 180 innings in three of the four seasons before this one.

And let’s not forget that the principle that made him an attractive, if oft-injured, player for the 2013 Jays still remains in place– and has, in fact, probably been strengthened. Back then it was: “If he gets hurt, that’s not the worst, because we’ll have J.A. Happ sitting in Buffalo waiting to take his place.” Then it was Ricky Romero sitting in Buffalo. Then it was Happ sitting in a Tampa hospital bed after taking a ball to the head, and… well… you all remember the gory details (and if not, you can always check out the upcoming book on the atrocity that was 2013 from the excellent John Lott and Shi Davidi!).

This year there is a much, much deeper– if untested– well of talent to dip into should it turn out that Johnson’s elbow surgery hasn’t righted him. If Johnson misses ten- fifteen- twenty starts, I don’t feel so bad giving them to a Drew Hutchison or a Marcus Stroman, assuming they’re still here and still on the outside looking in. Shit, even Aaron Sanchez should be in Double-A by early next season.

Is it ideal? No. But the Jays have the depth to take the gamble on it being a defensible use of resources, especially when compared to the gamble required in trying to replace a fifth starter of that potential calibre on the open market. With the cheap services of at least a few Stroman and Hutchison and Drabek and Happ and Redmond and Rogers and Sanchez likely still there if necessary, Josh Johnson is a hell of a lottery ticket to hold, and one that the Jays can ill afford to simply walk away from.

As for the money, while I think our daydreaming of late about Rogers actually, seriously opening up the purse strings and spending on a level commensurate of a team Bloomberg has determined is the 12th most valuable in baseball is maybe a little bit fanciful, I can’t imagine that when they dealt for him last year they hadn’t accounted for the fact that bringing him back on a qualifying offer was a distinct possibility.

Maybe they were so high on visions of World Series gumdrops and blow jobs that they didn’t think it would ever come to this, so maybe the budget isn’t there– or maybe they’ll see something in his medicals that scares them off far more than what we can see from here– but while it’s only an educated guess, I have to say that at this point I’d be very surprised if he didn’t return. And with successful elbow surgery earlier this month having cleaned up the bone spurs he evidently had tried to pitch through this season, I really do think that’s beyond OK. *Fingers crossed.*

Comments (83)

  1. as a one year deal
    considering the crappy and inflated market
    hell yes

  2. Seems it just got WAY more important to develop major league players.

    • Not really, it is all relative. The money seems higher to us but it corresponds with additional revenue to teams which is why the money is higher. If all tv deals suddenly were stripped in a theoretical situation, well you can bet those salaries would go down considerably. No change to value of developing pitchers. Has always been and will always be important.

  3. Sigh, I was hoping we could extend him to a cheap one year contract with incentives, but thanks to the Giants overspending on extending contracts, we are geting a rude awakening on the cost of free agency.

    I’m fine with giving Johnson a qualifying offer as long as AA finds another reliable pitcher, or even one with upside.

    I have a feeling Happ is going to be dealt, even though his value is not the greatest.

    • How much of a difference did you really think there was going to be?

      • I figured something like Napoli’s deal, if Johnson pitched well, then the contract would work out to be the same as the qualifying offer. The only difference is we are protected by risk, not necessarily by dollar amount.

        • Wow, I would have thought at least something like $8 plus incentives, maybe higher. Just guessing, of course.

          • I agree. I had figured a Dan Haren-like floor of $10-$12 mil was about as low as JJ’s camp would go. Hard to argue 2012 Haren was any better than 2013 JJ and JJ is much younger and potentially more dominant when he’s on.

            A $14 mil Q.O. really only cost the Jays $2-$4 mil more than realistic scenarios of bringing him back on the open market would have cost.

  4. The Jays are pot committed, and that’s the only reason to offer Johnson a qualifying offer. As long as they keep the 2016 payroll down, and they don’t cause 5-year revenues to crash, it’s a perfectly sensible risk.

  5. I agree with everything you say here. The potential is still there for Johnson to be very good, whereas you won’t find someone with the same potential unless you drastically overpay in either money or prospects. And if you bring in someone with a lower ceiling through F/A, it is likely that their floor is going to be similar anyway for roughly the same money. So why not?

  6. Have to say it has me a bit excited… Think JJ has a great comeback season. Plus it leaves us hunting for one additional starter and then to fix the BIG holes in the line-up.
    And PLEASE future endeavors to JPA

  7. Another angle is that if pitching (and free agency in general) is going to get so much more expensive, then we can’t be trading away Stroman or Hutchison or whoever else just to get a mid rotation guy for a year or two.

  8. Fuck

    There you go with that rational logic thing again Stoeten.

    Nice work

    I wish you would stop pandering to the trolls but…hey content!

  9. Although, maybe this is crazy, but does Lincecums deal combined with JJs injury/surgery not also give more reason for Johnson (or his agent) to wonder if he couldn’t get more than one year on the FA market, and therefore maybe think, even if just for a moment about turning down a QO? If you’re Johnson and you think maybe you could get 2/20, or 3/30 would you not think about going for it?

    • Other than a crazy team, no one is offering him that unless some team is 100% convinced that he is back to his 2012 ish form. *COUGH Mariners Cough* who might do it to save their own jobs including Jack Z, and if a gamble works out for them it might save their jobs.

      • Giving away a draft pick to do it? No way.

      • really, with Lincecum getting 2/35 you don’t see a team going 2/20 with Johnson, especially with a weak market, and huge influx of cash, and the obscene salaries we are seeing? I could certainly see a team taking a gamble on a return to form. Especially a team like the NYY if they were to lose out on Tanaka, or maybe LAA who are pitching starved but are all in with the previous years contracts. They might see a chance of picking up Johnson at 2/20 a bargain.

        • the mariners might as this is pure speculation, but jack z needs to save his job so badly

        • Not likely. It’s not that he can’t potentially get a 2 or 3 year deal, it’s that he doesn’t want it. He wants a one year deal to rebuild his value, then he can cash in as a free agent.

          Do you really think he’d be better off taking 2/20 over 1/14 and free agency?

          • I don’t what JJ would do obviously, but knowing if you repeat this year you’re next contract will be around league minimum, if someone offers you cost certainty for 2 or even 3 years, I think you gotta at least think about it no? A two year deal gives him 2 years to figure it out again, and if he returns to form he is still young enough to cash in again on the other side. I could see an agent recommending it as the best compromise between risk and security at this point in his career. I’m not saying he would turn a QO down, I am just saying I could see it happening and I don’t think it is too outrageous either with the contract Lincecum just got. Hell, Timmy had an xFIP of 3.56 in 2013, Johnson’s was 3.58. I could see a GM gambling on a return to form after the surgery to remove the bone spurs.

            • I see what you’re trying to say, but it’s not really a gamble on his behalf. Let’s say he takes the QO and bombs again. He has $14 mill and his next contract will be low, so over 2 years he’ll end up with $16-20 mill. If he pitches well next year, he gets his multi-year deal with plenty of AAV.

              Conversely, he can turn it down and take an offer for approximately 2/20, providing no upside if he pitches well next year, with hardly any added salary security over the course of the two years.

              It just doesn’t make sense to take the two year deal with no upside.

              • Right, my only point, if you read my original post was that it opens up the possibility. I did not mean to say that it is not still a complicated decision. Complicated further if you were to take into account income taxes and such (that would decrease his 14 mil salary in TO to around 10 mil in some other places, or so I gather). My only point is that I do not think it is impossible that Johnson and his agent might think about turning down an offer given the current market and that it is possible a team out there would take a gamble on him if that teams circumstances warranted it, I am not saying that JJ would turn down an offer.

            • Still missing the draft pick stuff.

              • But you are thinking along the lines of one draft pick is more valuable than Josh Johnson. I think a lot of GMs, especially those in win now situations or whom had already signed a qualified FA, that two/three years of JJ is worth more than one draft pick in the immediate future.

                • Ask Kyle Lohse how GM’s feel about that one draft pick

                • I’m thinking along the lines that one draft pick, a bunch of bonus pool money, plus a contract of at least $14-million is too much for Johnson. Because it is.

                  • Kyle Lohse’s only season above 3 WAR was the season right before free agency, JJ has had multiple. And I agree Stoeten it is too much, all I am saying is that in the right situation, some GM may not think that it is too much, and not all GMs are as focused on bonus pool money as AA, otherwise every team would be utilizing his same drafting strategy.

                    • Your last point is definitely a good one, but I still think there are quite significant differences. Lohse was healthy for two seasons straight before his walk year, and wasn’t a guy who survived on a now-missing fastball when he had his success– which is what Johnson was in all but one of those high WAR seasons. I don’t think anybody would ever expect a six win season from him again, but Lohse– by Baseball Reference– had a 4.3 WAR year in his free agent year, which is a full win higher than Johnson’s best since his velocity dipped.

                      All those advantages, and Lohse still didn’t find a taker until the eve of the season because of the qualifying offer. I just don’t see how Johnson and his agent could possibly see that route as viable.

                    • Well said, we were beating around the bush with that one for a little while.

                    • It’s all irrelevant because Johnson has no interest in a multi-year deal. He’ll never sign for 2/20 or 3/30 because he’s focusing on the end game: build up value with a one year deal and use that to get 5/100 or 6/120.

    • I think Johnson is still thinking a lot grander then those numbers. Have a comeback 2014 and all of a sudden your looking at 5-90+ …maybe more.

  10. As the article states, even getting 2012 JJ production would be a massive upgrade, and getting him back only costs money, so if it blows up in their faces it won’t hamstring them too much other than the payroll for that year.

  11. How many contracts has AA done that had incentives built in? I think I read somewhere his policy was club option on the end of each contract and no trade clauses are out of the question. Now, he won’t be able to hang a club option on JJ, but I would’ve guessed he’d get 1 year, 10-12 million so 14 isn’t all that crazy.

  12. Was it really ever in doubt that AA would offer JJ a QO?

    • Yes.

      • The market conditions haven’t changed that much since August. We were talking about the glut of TV revenue last year, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that money was going to get thrown around for middling talent. Once It was clear that JJ’s issue was relatively minor it seemed clear he would get the QO.

    • I’ve personally felt the same way here GSMC. Why wouldn’t you?

      Unless he was hurt, it always made sense to me. For all the reasons Stoeten stated above. Basically, the guy is a fucking beast, until he shit the bed this year. This year had to be the outlier/anamoly, doesn’t it?

      14 mill is fuck all to the Jays, Rogers and in the overall scheme of this, but you cant find his talent anywhere. Hell, you paid all those fucking prospects, so AA must believe the talent is there, why stop now?

  13. The good thing is, for what it’s worth, JJ would be ultra-motivated to perform at the highest of levels this year, as this one will no doubt define the direction of his career. Two dogshit seasons in a row combined with his checkered injury history and he is a reclamation project that makes a couple mil plus incentives in the future.

    Not that he was going to be demotivated otherwise or that he wasn’t trying at a high level this season, but he sure as shit didn’t perform like it. But again, for what it’s worth. I am looking for positives out of all of this, though I guess the overall cost isn’t much different than a one year deal. Whatever, just at a pub rambling.

    • You can’t motivate your arm into being healthy, and that’s really the main issue with him.

      • I agree however you can motivate yourself with perhaps a better strengthening program and more emphasis on that program. Again, not saying he wasn’t motivated last year but the fact is that the “played through bone chips” all year shit didn’t come until very late. Velocity looked decent for the most part and his stuff passed the eye test in many of his starts, he just got hit really hard especially with people on. So … I don’t know. Just saying contract years have provided a push to people in the past, so maybe a career life or death situation could do something here. Not a lot of analysis here, I’m just thinking out loud … but quietly in this comment area.

        • Fair enough, but it just doesn’t make any sense that he would have been less motivated this year than he will be next year. I don’t think motivation has anything to do with anything in his case.

  14. The logic is sound, I’m just not convinced there’s enough upside in Josh Johnson to take a 14M shot on him when you have so many other holes to fill. Of course that’s assuming a modest payroll increase, if Rogers is set to blow the doors off or something then what do I care about a one year deal.

    • Well that’s the thing: $14-million now isn’t your older brother’s $14-million.

      • Sure, but you still have to assume his upside is significantly higher than what you’d reasonably expect from the slew of cheap back of the rotation types you already mentioned to justify giving him that 14M. Given the way he’s evolved as a pitcher since 2010 or so (mainly the nibbling. oh so much nibbling), I’m not so sure it is anymore.

  15. Meh, I still say no qualifying offer. May as well just reallocate that money to bats and seek internal cost controlled pitching.

    WAR is WAR regardless from where it comes.

    • Saying that doesn’t mean Johnson doesn’t have a way higher ceiling than anyone else you’re talking about here, you understand.

      • Of course I understand… but the crux of the story as I understand it was that due to Lincecum the pitcher market is going to explode. So then why would I invest in it when I can reallocate the dollars that it would to something with a most efficient $/WAR ratio?

        If it didn’t make sense to qualify Johnson pre-Lincecum then it doesn’t make sense now.

        • It didn’t make sense to qualify him because that didn’t seem to be what it would take. They shouldn’t let him walk for nothing.

          • Of course they should. They’re not “getting nothing” by letting him walk, they’re getting 14M in payroll space… that is not “nothing”. If you can get more expected wins (wins as in WAR) by using that 14M to upgrade elsewhere then why would you stick with Johnson?

            • You can’t. Not in terms of his ceiling, at least. And you need pitchers like that. And there’s tremendous value to the certainty of keeping him as opposed to the uncertainty of having to put that money to good use on the open market. It’s what I wrote about in this piece we’re commenting on here.

              • But there is no “certainty” in keeping him… well sure there’s certainty in that you’ll have a pitcher but you can always just have a pitcher… what you want is a degree of certainty in terms of performance and Johnson does not provide that. Yeah, he’s got a high ceiling… but now he also has a pretty low floor. AA bet on his ceiling last year, That really didn’t work out that well.

                If it made sense to not give him a qualifying offer before (when you’d be faced with the same uncertainty in the open market) I hardly see how it makes sense to give him one now.

                Ok, there’s is one situation whereby it makes sense… if you can have him sign the offer and then immediately trade him the next day (while retaining none of money). Then it makes sense but barring that the decision shouldn’t be any different today then it was at seasons close.

  16. For the love of god……….$14 million for 2 wins?

  17. I had finally convinced myself that 2 or 3 years of someone like Bronson Arroyo or Scott Feldman would probably be a better investment for the Jays, but I also did a pretty quick 180 when I saw that Lincecum was determined to be worth $17.5 million per season last night. Granted, those guys are pretty poor comps, but it’s hard to see getting either one of them to a Jeremy Gurthrie-like deal at this point. It’s suddenly hard to see the Jays getting a better value for $14 million on the open market.

  18. Doesn’t it also mean that a team with a protected pick is more likely to pay JJ?

    Meaning he will decline the qo?

    • A second round pick is still extremely valuable.

      • Remember how surprising it was when Kelly Johnson re-signed for 2012, and the Jays didnt get the draft pick compensation we were all expecting?

        This is the exact opposite of that situation — we actually expect him to accept the QO.

        But still, would be kinda rad if they got a 2nd round pick if he declined the QO. Obviously, you’re still short an arm (especially with JJ’s upside), but College pitchers like Stroman, Wacha seem to be available in those first few rounds of the draft if you want them…

  19. OK, I get it.
    I’m just a working schlub who will never see 8-14M dollars in my entire life. So the concept of handing out more money than me or my family unto the fifth generation will ever know to a guy for ONE year of pitching after a shit-stained 2013….well, it does generate a gag reflex.
    Even after a year where everything that could possible go wrong did go wrong for Mr. Johnson, he still gets to climb out of the big steaming pile of manure, smelling like a rose because he’s blessed with that that tantalizing quality that gives every GM a giant woody…..because he’s got POTENTIAL. But, seriously – that’s the going rate for arms with potential…and if AA doesn’t pay it, someone else will fall all over themselves to offer it to him. So, I’d rather him be in my tent, pissing out – than outside my tent, pissing in.

  20. xFIP for 2013 was 3.58.
    My goodness, that is a lot better than the actual ERA.
    I am totally fine with a qualifying offer.

  21. $8m for JJ with incentives that build it to $14-15m makes perfect sense.

    A lot of talk about Anderson as well.
    Think Jays would be fine to add one of those guys but not both.

    The other # 2 type starter they land should be a guy with a track record
    for both performance and durability.

    A rotation of JJ, Anderson, Morrow, Dickey and Buehrle just has too many question marks.

    • I think, though, that the *fear* is that we don’t get him if we don’t QO him for the full 14. I know his agent has said he’d like to come back on a one-year deal, but if Lincecum gets 2/35, I don’t know that JJ can be had for your reasonable number of 8+incentives…

    • Welp

  22. @Stoeten

    Did any other Flexpack holders get this email? I think the Jays are trying to cut down on scalpers by forcing Flexpack holders to show up with a plastic credit card at each game they attend.

    Flex Pack Card
    We will send you one Toronto Blue Jays Flex Pack Card which will store all your Flex Pack tickets. The Flex Pack Card will allow you to access all the seats for your selected games by simply swiping your card at the gate indicated on the front of your card and taking your seat locator slip from the ticket taker. Click here for details regarding the Flex Pack Card.

    Please note that you may select any 2014 regular season games (subject to the restrictions listed below), as part of your 20 Ticket Flex Pack. If you have not selected all of your games and tickets by August 1, 2014 , all remaining game and ticket selections will be made by the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Your 20 Ticket Flex Pack selections are subject to the following restrictions:

    A maximum of four tickets can be selected for the Home Opener on April 4, 2014 vs. the New York Yankees;
    A maximum of six tickets can be selected for all other New York Yankee games, all Boston Red Sox games and the Canada Day game on July 1, 2014; and
    A maximum of ten tickets can be selected for all other regular season games not specified above in a) or b).

    Ticket selections are subject to availability and other restrictions. Please read the terms and conditions of your 20 Ticket Flex Pack purchase(s) provided below. They are also available online.

  23. If you think about it, it’s not like the Jays are going from $0 to $14million on JJ just like that… when they traded for him, they knew that if he was going to play for them beyond 2013, it was going to cost AT LEAST $14 million. AA has spoken extensively about how he and Rogers did all the projections and number crunching for the trades they made and the raises due those players for 2014 and beyond; they knew what they were getting into. Either way, I like the idea of Johnson coming back. If he pitches like 2012 Johnson, we’re in good shape.

  24. Another ridiculously stupid post by stoeten. TL has 33 wins and 600ip the last 3 years and this was his OFF year, 4.37 era and 197 ip. He’s never been injured and stoeten argues to give JJ almost HALF his salary to a guy who has 13 wins last 3 years and injured in 2 of them??? Complete stupidity. Stoeten actually thinks that JJ will become the first player in the history of MLB to get a QO with 2 wins!!!! This would certainly guarantee AA’s firing.

    • No team uses wins to evaluate pitchers, so why are you? JJ’s peripherals (IE: the stats that teams actually look at) remain solid, so it is very reasonable to give the bloke a QO. In fact, if I were the one to determine such things, I would fire AA if he didn’t give JJ one.

    • I think you missed the point entirely. This isn’t a comparison between Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum, though even if it was, bringing up their respective win totals from the last three years is completely meaningless and utterly moronic. The point is that the deal for Lincecum has set the market for starting pitchers at a much higher rate than we’ve seen over the last few seasons, meaning that when the dust settles, the Jays probably are pretty well off having Johnson signed for 2014 for roughly $14 million, rather than spending $45 million for three years of Scott Feldman or Bronson Arroyo, or $80 million for four years of Ervin Santana.

  25. Given the available rotations options that will cost nothing but money, Josh Johnson has by far the best potential bang for the buck at one year $14 million and fits the Jays ‘window’ best. This is a no brainer to me.

    If you’d rather hand Matt Garza 5 years/$75 mil instead, then I have a nice used car I’d like to show you. It may be hard to fathom, but this has suddenly become the Jays best option. Flip some depth arms and relievers for another 2-3 starter and you’ll really have something there.

    Man…Ricky tanking really fucked up the plan.

  26. [...] Andrew Stoeten at DJF takes a look at the impact Tim Lincecum‘s freshly minted two-year, $35 million deal has on the baseball world and specifically for upcoming free agent Josh Johnson. I was a strong supporter of letting Johnson go during the season but I’m starting to come around to the idea of possibly keeping him around. [...]

  27. After reading this post, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays made a QO and some other team beat it and threw in their first or, more likely, a second round pick. If Lincecum is worth 17.5 million, I can see Johnson going for 15 million and a second rounder to some team with a protected first rounder. All of a sudden Buerhle’s contract is starting to look more like a reasonable investment too and Reyes is playing for chump change. This new salary scale also makes Brandon Philips’ 4 year/50 mil deal look better too–I’m sure AA is at least looking into that aquisition. I’m actually wishing the Series was over so we could see some real action from AA on the trade front. I can’t bear to watch the Red Sux and Farrell in the series.

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