• Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Josh Johnson

    So far in this Free Agent Pitcher Profile series, I have taken a look at four different high-profile names on the market, all of whom strike me as logical fits for the Twins for specific reasons. Tim Lincecum has his strikeout proficiency. Phil Hughes has his youth. Ubaldo Jimenez has his ace upside. Ervin Santana has his stinginess with hits and base runners.

    Josh Johnson has the potential to offer all the above. But he's also coming off a worse season than any of the aforementioned hurlers, and he recently underwent "minor" surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow. (We saw how that type of thing went with Vance Worley and Scott Diamond this year.) Because of those factors, he figures to be far more affordable than the rest of the high-end free agent crop, and probably won't require a long-term commitment, meaning he might be right be in the Twins' wheelhouse.

    Why Does He Fit?

    For a seven-year stretch with the Marlins from 2006 through 2012, Johnson was one of the premier performers in the National League, posting a 3.14 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while allowing just 59 home runs in 904 innings. The righty routinely posted strong strikeout rates, induced a fair share of grounders, and was on multiple occasions a legitimate Cy Young candidate (especially in 2010 when he finished with a 2.30 ERA).

    When he's healthy and at his best, Johnson has been a true ace. He doesn't turn 30 until January so age isn't a major concern, and while arm issues bogged him down this season the hope is that an offseason elbow clean-up will restore him to his previous level of effectiveness.

    Given his situation, Johnson seems almost certain to take a one-year make-good deal. That involves little risk, and while such a short contract wouldn't seem to fit with the Twins' long-term rebuilding plan, a strong bounceback season would give the club a lot of options. They could flip him before the deadline for prospects, or seek to lock him up with a long-term deal that would entrench him at the top of their rotation for several years.

    It's worth noting that Johnson was born in Minneapolis, so he might be slightly more inclined to view the Twins as a landing spot, though that shouldn't be assumed.

    Why Doesn't He Fit?

    Johnson's health is a major question mark, and that's nothing new. Durability concerns have plagued his entire career. He's reached 200 innings only once. Since first becoming a full-time big-leaguer in 2006, he has averaged fewer than 20 starts per year. And now he's coming off a season in which he battled forearm pain, posted a hideous 6.20 ERA and finished with just 81 innings.

    As he leaves the Blue Jays, Johnson has about as many red flags attached to him as a Canadian parade. That could repel a Twins club seeking to add reliability to a rotation that had only one member throw more than 152 innings in 2013.

    What Will He Cost?

    There seems to be widespread agreement that Johnson will seek a one-year deal, because it simply doesn't make much sense for him to do anything else. Nobody's going to make a huge commitment to a guy with an ominous medical situation, but Johnson has enough talent and track record that he could probably strike it big in a year if he returns to form in 2014. So what it will likely come down to is who can offer the most attractive situation for him this year.

    Money is part of that equation. In the Offseason Handbook, we guessed that he'd end up getting $7 million. More than likely he'll prefer to link up with a contender, but perhaps the Twins can sway him by significantly outbidding other interested parties. Jim Pohlad himself has said that he's willing to spend "any amount of money" on a current year contract, which would seemingly indicate that if Terry Ryan likes Johnson, the general manager will have approval to do whatever it takes to bring aboard the sometimes injured, sometimes elite starter.
    This article was originally published in blog: Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Josh Johnson started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 50 Comments
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I would take a flyer (like Pelfrey) on him. One year 8 or 9 million. Max 2 year 15 million. Maybe he could be a stop gap till the young guys (Berrios, Stewart, Gonsalves) are ready.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Certainly worth the effort to sign him. He has big upside and the only downside is money which will go in Pohlads pocket if not spent. If he has a big year either trade him at the deadline or a QO next winter.
      True or not I read his brother lives in the cities.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      I'd like to see the Twins offer a Pelfrey-ish contract. Obviously more money, but incentives that could earn him up to $12, 13, 14m. If he's right - and reaches those incentives - you turn around and make him a QO.

      (Wow. I typed out my comment and noticed I hadn't submitted it... lots of similar thinkers late in the morning.)
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      I would be all for us giving a Pelfrey contract to Josh Johnson, Johan Santana and Tim Hudson. All risky but mine as well
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      I'd give him a Correia contract.

      (Pelfrey was already taken)
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Basically, any one-year deal would be fine for Johnson, and probably Hughes too. That's all they will be looking for this offseason, and with that short of a term, the dollars really don't matter.

      Still would be nice to get a longer-term guy for the rotation too -- maybe Johnson or Hughes if they have success could be extended reasonably, or we could splurge on an Ervin Santana type.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Johnson for one year, and Hughes for three. Pay what the market will bear, Pohlads.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      It will take more than a Pelfrey contract. He is not returning from a Tommy John surgery.

      Hate to say it (because the price will be high), but his play in 2013 was not reflected by his 2-8 record and 6.20 ERA, but by his 3.58 xFIP. Add his more than 1 K/IP to his 93 mph average fastball, to his under 30 age and you got a guy who you (or someone) will want to sign for a 3-4 year contract.

      And I think that a 3/40 or 4/50 might be what it will take, including incentives. Look at what Lincicum got, and Johnson has fewer questions...
    1. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      Can you make a Qualifying Offer if you only give a 1 year contract? IIRC, you didn't get compensation under the old rules unless the player was on a multi-year deal.
    1. zenser's Avatar
      zenser -
      I am not very high on Johnson due to his injury history. I would be happy that the Twins signed him if they also sign one or two other pitchers. If he is the only signing, I would be pretty disappointed.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      My concern is that Terry Ryan will wait till the market establishes itself and he will cringe and pull back on aggressively pursuing anyone in free agency other then the scrap bin variety. I hope he jumps out of the gate after a Johnson, either Santana, Vargas or Hughes. Hughes I would be willing to go multiple years. He seems like a good fit for Target Field.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rick Niedermann View Post
      I hope he jumps out of the gate after a Johnson, either Santana, Vargas or Hughes..
      Vargas does not belong in this list. He would be a tremendous mistake. Nick Blackburn 2.0. But he is a groundball pitcher with a 87 mph FB who pitches to contact, which is what the Twins' like.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      And I think that a 3/40 or 4/50 might be what it will take, including incentives. Look at what Lincicum got, and Johnson has fewer questions...
      Ah... no. Lincecum has made 32+ starts for six straight years and pitched ~200 innings this season. Johnson has made 32+ starts once in his career and is coming off a season that was shortened by arm problems and ended in elbow surgery.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Ah... no. Lincecum has made 32+ starts for six straight years and pitched ~200 innings this season. Johnson has made 32+ starts once in his career and is coming off a season that was shortened by arm problems and ended in elbow surgery.
      Looks like his camp will be asking close to Lincecum numbers... I am pretty confident that he will get it.

      Interesting comments from Radcliff in that link, which make me think that these guys (Twins FO scouts) do not know the difference between "horrible" and "good" and they go by W-L and ERA. Unless they think that every single Twins SP was "horrible", since Johnson's 3.58 xFIP dwarfs all of the Twins' SP numbers, and his k/9 is almost double to the best Twins' SP.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I highly doubt Johnson gets 7M. That's 1.5M more than Correia with cash flush in the league.

      I'm guessing it's more akin to what Dan Haren got from Washington.
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Really interesting tidbit from Radcliff about Johnson

      Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff threw some cold water on the possibility of a move on Johnson, Berardino further reports. Radcliff said that Johnson is coming off of a "horrible" year and "if he wants $10 million, we're not going to be involved with that

      To which I would agree whole heartedly!
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      Here's the problem: Ryan will wait to see what the market bares and hope against hope that he will get a deal once the dust settles. Problem is, like last year, other teams will establish the market by signing the decent SP, leaving the Twinks with rejects, the scrap-pile and has beens. To get these guys, the Twins can't sit back and react. They have to be aggressive and spend right out of the gate.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Johnson would be worthwhile even on a 1 year contract. If you gamble and lose it happens and if you win, you can flip him at the deadline for some very good prospects. He then would not bog down payroll in the succeeding years.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Johnson isn't going to get anything close to 10M (unless it's purely incentives). After a disappointing season and forearm pain, he's a Tommy John candidate waiting to happen. I'm guessing he gets less than Pelfrey. I'm fine going after him on a 1 year deal, but I'm guessing he's not getting more than 3 to 4M, and even that makes me cringe as I suspect he's on the 60 day DL by May.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Quote Originally Posted by TRex View Post
      Can you make a Qualifying Offer if you only give a 1 year contract? IIRC, you didn't get compensation under the old rules unless the player was on a multi-year deal.
      You can. You can't make a QO to players that are traded during the season. Napoli, for example, will get a QO coming off a 1-year deal.
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