According to a report from MLB Trade Rumors, since confirmed by John Lott of the National Post, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, and Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com, the Jays will not extend a qualifying offer to free agent pitcher Josh Johnson. He’ll hit the open market and they’ll get nothing in return should he choose not to ultimately sign with them anyway.
So… that’s interesting. And not just because the scoop came from our old friend Tim Dierkes-Dierkes-Dierkes.
If you’ve been reading here regularly, you’ll know that– while occasionally wavering slightly– I’ve been pretty firmly on the side of thinking that the club almost had to make this offer, if push came to shove. Obviously you’d like to believe that he could have been had for less– and he still very well might, though the fact that at midnight tonight he’ll be able to negotiate with other clubs makes that far less of a likelihood– but the upside was just too high, the commitment, in terms of years, perfectly short, and the certainty of actually ensuring the club lands one of the more intriguing free agent arms in this year’s class too valuable to just let him walk away for nothing.
Welp. So much for that, eh?
So what does it mean?
It could mean that the club didn’t like what it saw in his medicals.
It could mean that the Jays, who have commitments that last month I approximated to be north of $130-million for 2014, couldn’t justify paying $14-million on top of that to a question mark, given the speculated budgetary ceiling of about $150-million some observers have suggested they’ll be operating under.
It could mean that performances in the Arizona Fall League from Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have convinced the organization that one of those two is ready to move into the rotation for a whole lot less money– freeing up resources to be used elsewhere.
It could mean that Johnson and his agent held out for as high a price as possible from the Jays specifically, knowing that taking less for one year, but being able to choose a more favourable park to pitch in, could end up serving them best in the long run.
It could mean that they have bigger and better and more expensive players– and, ideally, less risky (in terms of health)– to spend their resources on, and that money wasn’t nearly as big an issue as we’ve maybe thought it to be. Though… I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.
It could mean that, rather than looking to lavish a tonne of fliff on someone, it’s more just about the risk, and they’d rather go scraping the bottom of the barrel– and keeping their bonus pool money– for the Jason Vargases and Bronson Arroyos of the world. (Arroyo, by the way, won’t be extended a qualifying offer by the Reds, either, according to MLBTR.)
And then also we must ask, what does it mean about our assessment of the deal that brought Johnson to the Blue Jays?
There is no doubt that Johnson’s one year Blue Jays tenure– assuming there isn’t a deal still coming after he explores the open market, which seems unlikely given that it’s massively in his interest to pitch in a friendlier environment– was an absolute worst case scenario. An unmitigated disaster. I mean, we all knew the gigantic red flags in terms of health that he came here with, but with him potentially looking at a nine-figure free agent contract, even if he just performed to his 2012 level, the least we expected was to get a draft pick back as free agent compensation that would help the club recoup some of the talent they gave up over the course of the winter. Or maybe that’s not even the least we expected: he could have been awful, then stuck around on a pillow contract for one more kick at the can.
Now not even that??? It would be more dispiriting if they hadn’t been trading for just the one year of him in the first place, or if– as I’ve suggested a couple of times this year, in order to lessen the hurt of the prospect capital given up– either of the two major prospects that went to the Mets in the Dickey deal had been swapped out for one of the guys in this one. But still, not the best thing I’ve ever heard. However, Reyes and Buehrle, even with their backloaded, hefty contracts, are core pieces of what can be a very, very good club, and what the Jays gave up still doesn’t really hurt too badly to have parted with… unless you’re referring to the payroll flexibility.
In fact, I’d be more confident in the suggestion that they could be a very, very good club, if there wasn’t such a concern that the signal being sent by the club by not keeping Johnson was largely a financial one. There’s no such thing as a bad one year deal… unless, I guess, it prevents you from doing the other things you need to do and is fraught with risk. Rogers should be doing better by the club than to make that such a concern, I think, given the value of certainty (as opposed to the inflated open market) and the big upside, but maybe that’s just reality.
Or maybe it isn’t! We’ll just have to wait and see…