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2013 is crucial for Josh Johnson

Mar 9, 2013, 10:56 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Josh Johnson works from the mound against the Atlanta Braves during the inning of their MLB Spring training baseball game in Lake Buena Vista, Florida Reuters

The Blue Jays, in trading for R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson, have narrowed their focus specifically on the 2013 season. With a roster that already includes two 40-homer threats in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays will be a force to be reckoned with the AL East. Johnson, while he will certainly be in tune with his team’s goals, will also have his focus set on the future as he is eligible for free agency after the season.

The 29-year-old will earn $13.75 million in the final year of a four-year, $39 million pact signed with the then-Florida Marlins in January 2010. If he has a strong season and avoids injury, he could be in line for what may be his last big contract. Johnson finished with a 3.81 ERA in 31 starts last season, a bounce-back year after missing 122 games in 2011 with a right shoulder injury. Since Johnson earned regular starts in 2006, he has crossed the 100-inning threshold in only four of seven seasons. Johnson had Tommy John surgery in 2007 which caused him to miss all of 2008 as well.

Johnson has shown, in the limited amount of time he has consistently been able to toe the rubber, that he can be a dominant starting pitcher. Among those 100-plus inning seasons, he finished with a 3.10 ERA in 2006, 3.23 in ’09, 2.30 in ’10, and 3.81 last year. In essence, his ceiling is ace-esque while his floor is an above-average starter.

Among big-name starting pitchers to sign contracts of at least three years in length this past off-season included Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million), Anibal Sanchez (five, $80 million), Edwin Jackson (four, $52 million), and Jeremy Guthrie (three, $25 million). The prior off-season saw C.C. Sabathia (five, $122 million), C.J. Wilson (five, $77.5 million), Mark Buehrle (four, $58 million), and Wei-Yin Chen (three, $11.388 million) sign contracts of at least three years as well.

It is easy to say that Johnson compares favorably to pitchers like Jackson, Wilson, and Buehrle, but teams have become more and more wary of pitchers with injury risks. Kyle Lohse, who has a 3.11 aggregate ERA over the last two seasons, is still without a home and part of the reason is his 2010 forearm surgery. Lohse had dealt with groin and forearm problems in the prior year as well. Reliever Brian Wilson is also unsigned after having Tommy John surgery this past April.

There is still no guarantee that Johnson will generate buzz even with a strong season. Still, it’s the only way the right-hander will have a chance at securing himself one more big payday. Johnson will be 30 years old at the start of his next deal. While he could take a one- or two-year deal to continue reestablishing his value, teams will be less and less likely to offer him lengthy, money-laden deals with every passing year.

  1. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 10, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    A 3.81 ERA in the NL will not work so well in the AL East, Josh will be one and done in toronto and when the smoke clears on this trade the jays will clearly be on the losing end. Thats without even getting into his injury history which isnt not good by any means. Dickey is the only pitcher in this trade that has a shot at being decent in the AL East, Bottom line, different year, same old bluejays, its time to join the expos….

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 10, 2013 at 5:06 AM

      Teixeira and Granderson will hit so many bombs off him this April.

      • dmcmillan2286 - Mar 10, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        Good one! A-rod will be crushing him too in April…

    • tycobb420 - Mar 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      To what mythical trade are you making reference? Dickey and Johnson were acquired in two different deals. Also, I don’t think your realignment plan is feasible: the Washington / Baltimore area already has as many MLB teams as it can handle. Feel free to make a phallic joke of “Dickey and Johnson”, however. That seems about your speed.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      Another day another clueless comment from the ignorant know-nothing blathering buffoon that is harry.

      Tell us more about Blue Jay attendance so we can have another laugh at you

      • misterchainbluelightning - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        Better yet tell us more about your daughter that you yourself refereed to as a b1tch and trashy

  2. thegaltierpoolguy - Mar 10, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    Kyle Loshe is 34 and asking for multiple years and a heap of cash. Bryan Wilson (according to your colleagues) is not even auditioning for a contract until fully healed. These guys are not at all comparable to Josh Johnson.

    You are right. 2013 is a huge contract year for JJ… but your prose is garbage and your reasoning is not sound. Your fourth paragraph is nothing but two fragment sentences. Get it together.

    • Old Gator - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:24 AM

      Your filter is clogged. Go clean it.

  3. tuberippin - Mar 10, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    “Kyle Lohse, who has a 3.11 aggregate ERA over the last two seasons, is still without a home and part of the reason is his 2010 forearm surgery.”

    Stretching it a little in regards to the injury being a contributing factor. It’s pretty clear that the main reasons Lohse is without a home are that: a) he’s attached to first-round draft pick compensation, and b) he’s still out there looking for a three-year deal with a high AAV in early March.

    Meanwhile, Jake Peavy got 2 and $29mil after having a surgery no other baseball player has ever had before; Dan Haren had back issues and got 1/$13mil, and Brandon McCarthy got drilled in the skull with a line drive and still got 2 years and $15.5mil. Hell, Mike Pelfrey just had surgery and got a 1-year, $4mil deal from the Twins.

  4. proudlycanadian - Mar 10, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    So far, Johnson has been having a great spring training. He also finished 2012 quite well. This season, he will also be facing a lot of #3, #4 and #5 starters. He is hot and motivated, grab him early for your fantasy team.

  5. buffalo65 - Mar 10, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    It’s funny how he has become the forgotten man in Toronto but he could end up being their best pitcher. He will be one and done in Toronto but only because that’s the plan, kids will step into the 5 spot next year.

  6. 13arod - Mar 10, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Proudlycandian is right he is having a great spring he will win about 15 games and his era will be 3.00

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