Nov 20, 2009, 7:14 PM EDT
The wheels were set in motion for Josh Johnson to join a sterling class of free agent starters in two years when he and the Marlins reached an impasse in contract talks on Friday.
Agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com that he and Johnson were using the four-year, $38 million contract that Zack Greinke signed a year ago as a framework for a new deal with the Marlins. Florida, though, was only willing to guarantee Johnson three years.
If the Marlins could have signed Johnson to the Greinke deal, it would have been a bargain. With a career ERA of 3.40 in 481 1/3 innings, Johnson has a better track record than Greinke did entering 2009. He went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA and a 191/68 K/BB ratio last season, and that was as a groundball pitcher working in front of a poor infield defense. He allowed just 14 homers. His 3.06 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) was the seventh-best mark in baseball.
Since they control him for two more years and they expect to contend next season, there’s little reason for the Marlins to trade Johnson this winter. Still, they could if bowled over with an offer. If Johnson were a free agent, there’s little doubt that he’d land a bigger contract than any available pitcher, John Lackey included.
Barring an extension, Johnson will be a part of 2011-12 free-agent class that could also include Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Wandy Rodriguez and Edwin Jackson.
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