Should Blue Jays Qualify Josh Johnson?

Sorry for the lack of pieces by yours truly.  Things have been busier than normal but hope to get back into the swing of things even though the Blue Jays are embarking on an all-time awful campaign.  Thanks to Wes for writing some of the best pieces you will read at any blog over the past few weeks.

I was perusing Fangraphs today when I saw a piece on pitchers that Dave Cameron believes will get qualifying offers from their respective teams this off-season.  He wrote this about Josh Johnson:

Josh Johnson, RHP, Toronto

Nearly everything written above about Lincecum is also true of Josh Johnson. His results in Toronto this year were terrible, but his 3.60 xFIP is actually better than the mark he posted last year in Miami, even though he switched from a pitcher’s park in the NL to a hitter’s park in the AL. And he was good in Miami last year, so his struggles cover just 80 innings pitched, a minimal sample with which to judge a pitcher harshly based on inflated HR/FB and BABIP rates.

But, with Johnson, there’s a significant health question. He hasn’t pitched since August 6th, and he won’t pitch again this season due to soreness in his forearm. This isn’t exactly a new thing for Johnson either, as he’s already had Tommy Johnsurgery, and has missed significant time in his career due to back and shoulder problems, so this forearm soreness seems like part of a bigger trend. This was Johnson’s eighth season on a big league roster, and he’s made 30 starts in just two of those eight years. He’s thrown 200 innings once. Even in the best case scenario, Johnson is probably not worth counting on for a full season, and there’s significant risk that he just gives you nothing at all.

Teams have made big bets on similar health question marks before, and even last winter, there appeared to be some appetite for high base contracts for questionable health guys; Scott Baker got $6 million from the Cubs despite not even pitching last year, and Scott Baker doesn’t have Josh Johnson’s pedigree. However, it’s hard to see another team forfeiting a valuable draft pick for the right to hope that Josh Johnson stays healthy and his 2013 performance wasn’t a warning sign that a total breakdown is on the way.

If the Blue Jays make the qualifying offer, they have to plan on Johnson accepting it. He’s not going to do better than a $14 million guarantee in free agency, not with his health issues and coming off the season he just had. If the Blue Jays don’t believe his forearm soreness is a precursor to eventual surgery, making him the offer and bringing him back for a redemption year on a one year contract probably is a risk worth taking.

However, they know more about his current health than anyone else, and so it would be hard to take them to task for declining to make Johnson the offer. This one is about as close to a toss-up as it gets, and it’s basically impossible to know whether they should make the offer without the medical information, which we don’t have. If the medicals are okay, I’d say make the offer, but there’s a strong argument to just letting him walk and spending the $14 million on healthier pitchers instead.

Conclusion: Make the offer, unless they know that his arm is about to fall off.

I wrote a piece about the dilemma facing the Blue Jays with respect to Josh Johnson in July/2013 and wrote:

What should the Blue Jays do with Josh Johnson?

At this point barring an extremely solid second half I doubt Johnson has warranted a lengthy or expensive contract extension and one has to wonder if Alex Anthopoulos will be fielding offers on him prior to the MLB trade deadline.  While his traditional stats look awful, ERA (4.62), WHIP (1.51) and BAA (.272) Johnson hasn’t actually pitched as poorly as those numbers suggest.

He is striking out more batters this season (21.7%) than last (20.7%) and walking roughly the same (7.9%).  His xFIP is 3.63 which is actually lower than last year as well and the long ball has really hurt Johnson thus far.  His career HR/9 is an absurdly low 0.62 and this season currently sits at 1.19 hindered by a career worst 13.1% HR/FB rate.

This isn’t to excuse his 2013 performance or say it has been nothing but a product of rotten luck.  He didn’t look ready to start the season and got off to an absolutely horrendous start but we also shouldn’t completely write him off as washed up either.

I have to agree with Mr. Cameron here, if the medical checks out I don’t see how you don’t extend an offer for one year here.  The Jays need as many arms as they can muster and in reality Johnson offers an intriguing risk/reward heading into 2014.  While nothing with JJ is guaranteed one would think he is a good bet to improve upon a horrendous 2013 if healthy.  Always a big if of course.

What do you guys think?


5 Responses to “Should Blue Jays Qualify Josh Johnson?”

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  3. 3 Idiot Fan September 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Unless we have two pitchers who can easily replace him (or at least what he SHOULD be in 2014) then why not give him one more year? If it’s at the expense of adding a higher quality arm then obviously no. I believe he can rebound

  1. 1 Padres SP Josh Johnson To Miss Four Weeks | AL Eastbound & Down Trackback on March 23, 2014 at 1:21 pm
  2. 2 Mission ’13: Pitching: What Went Wrong? Can It Be Fixed? | AL Eastbound & Down Trackback on October 6, 2013 at 11:37 pm

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