This is a couple of days old, and isn’t really news, per se, but today marks the deadline– at 5 PM, specifically– for the Jays to make a qualifying offer of $14.1-million to pitcher Josh Johnson, and it’s probably worth noting that, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, it doesn’t appear as though they’ll be doing so.
“A final determination apparently hasn’t been made,” he adds, noting that “with no draft choice attached to him assuming no qualifying offer is made, he might be able to get close to the $14.1 million as a free agent.”
That last bit, of course, is the rub, and is also possibly the reason that we may be waiting until the last moment for word of the ultimate decision. That’s purely speculation on my part, but it’s not terribly difficult to envision the Jays and Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, still dancing around the fact that if the club is willing to get close to the qualifying offer, they may well be willing swallow hard and give up the full amount. The $14.1-million they’d need to give him is certainly at the upper end of what they could reasonably expect on the open market– Sosnick himself gave some insight into their strategy back in September, as he told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet that he believes “there will be between six and eight teams that will offer him between $10-15 million”– but the value of the certainty may be higher to the Jays than they’d want to let on until the very last.
Or so we’ve thought.
Like I say, this isn’t exactly new. I wrote rather confidently about Johnson’s upcoming return a couple weeks ago, in the wake of Tim Lincecum’s extension with the San Francisco Giants, which looked like it might, in one fell swoop, explode the market for pitching. But there are still things we don’t know about what the Jays’ thinking on this might be, and plenty of reasons why it’s possible that a qualifying offer wont be extended.
For example, Sosnick, according to Heyman’s latest, says that Johnson is “healthy,” but there could certainly still be concerns still about his medicals– no matter how much fans (or at the very least me) want to believe that the elbow surgery the pitcher underwent at the end of the season is, like the discovery of Melky Cabrera’s spinal tumour, an explanation for why this year was so bad, and a reason to feel it will get better, rather than the gigantic, screaming red flag it probably is in actuality.
The Jays may also– and, again, this could just be wishful thinking on my part– not feel it’s worth the risk and financial commitment to keep Johnson in the way of guys like Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, or even (eventually) Aaron Sanchez, out of the rotation, especially after their success in fall league.
Of course, they may simply be not extending the offer– if what Heyman’s hearing is to be believed– because they think they’re going to be able to agree to terms with him for less. Or because they just don’t think it’s a prudent use of their limited resources.
Either way we’ll find out something today, and that something is going to involve a lot of risk– either the risk of bringing Johnson back at a heftier price than he probably deserves, or the risk of seeing a guy with all that potential, who they paid so much for as part of the Marlins deal, walk away for absolutely nothing.
But that’s OK. No, really. I know a lot of Jays fans have become dramatically risk averse in the last six months or so, but taking risks is just part of the nature of running a club, and Alex Anthopoulos actually has a pretty good track record when it comes to that sort of stuff, as long as you’re willing to look a little deeper into the past than the last year.
There has been a lot of talk around here about following the path taken by the Red Sox last year, but still not enough reminders that their championship relied on all kinds of massively unreliable characters: David Ortiz coming off an Achilles injury; a Jacoby Ellsbury who’d played just 18 and 74 big league games in two of the previous three seasons; John Lackey coming off of Tommy John; a Clay Buchholz who followed a 14-start 2011 with perhaps the worst year of his career; a Jon Lester coming off the worst season of his career, having posted a 4.82 ERA over 33 starts (albeit with better peripherals); a Felix Doubront who had been even worse than that; Ryan Dempster, at 36 years old, coming off a shoulder injury and an ugly turn in Texas after being traded by Chicago; a Mike Napoli, whose free agent deal was held up and slashed massively after it was discovered that he had a degenerative hip condition; Shane Victorino, who looked like a platoon player with slowing bat speed by the end of 2012; Jarrod Saltalamacchia and his back-to-back .288 OBPs; and a Stephen Drew, who was a below replacement level player in 2012.
Plus they traded for Jake effing Peavy at mid-season, and, if you believe in such woo-woo, added a manager who hadn’t shown himself capable of winning anything more than a politician lookalike contest during the first two seasons of his career!
In other words, even for the best teams, risk is simply unavoidable. A way to mitigate it, however, is to accumulate as many quality roster pieces as possible. That’s why I tend to think we won’t hear today that the Jays are simply going to let Josh Johnson– a player Alex Anthopoulos had long coveted this time a year ago– walk. Maybe I’m just being optimistic that they could spend so much money so frivoulously and still feel they have the resources to do everything else they want to, but I’d really be surprised to see Johnson playing somewhere else next year for an amount of money in the neighbourhood of the qualifying offer that we know would keep him here, were it to be offered.
But your guess is as good as mine.