On Saturday Morning, Jon Heyman of CBSSports reported that Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson has officially cleared waivers and is now eligible to be traded. The problem is, what kind of potential suitor would be desperate enough to trade for Johnson?
How desperate do you ask?
Okay, we’re talking about a pitcher who is sitting on a 6.20 ERA and a 1.660 WHIP through 16 starts, has registered a HR/FB ratio of 18.5% and a BABIP of .356. Opponents have scored 64 runs against him in 81.1 innings pitched and he’s averages 11.6 hits per nine innings pitched. Oh, and Johnson is still owed $4 million through the remainder of the season.
Sure, he’s a worthwhile trade candidate (insert sarcasm tone here).
At the beginning of this season, the thought was whether or not the Toronto Blue Jays would attempt to sign Johnson long-term, or at the very least extend him a qualifying offer in order to net a compensation pick when he signed elsewhere. Now, it is a matter of whether they would RISK extending that qualifying offer, estimated to be close to $14 million.
Johnson’s value has sunk to the point that the qualifying offer would be the get out of jail free card that he would want, and he’d likely gladly accept it in order to try and rebuild his value before hitting the market again next winter. He would have to, as no other team would take the risk on a long-term deal after seeing the 2013 debacle, AND surrender a draft pick in return. Kyle Lohse sat on the market into Spring Training last winter due to the qualifying offer, and he was coming off two consecutive solid seasons in St. Louis.
Johnson would have no choice but to accept the offer. In that case, the Blue Jays get no draft pick, at least in 2014, and they would have to hope that he regains form or face having to pay him an astronomical amount for a performance similar to his 2013 output.
Then again, the free agent class is extremely limited in 2014, with Matt Garza and Tim Lincecum promising to be the only big names available. If Johnson rebounds over his next several starts, that could become a bit less risky, as a team may wish to take their chance on a rebound season rather than overpaying for a Bronson Arroyo, Ricky Nolasco, or Ervin Santana.
No, the Blue Jays are unlikely to find a trade partner in this situation, even if Johnson comes out strong on Monday against Oakland and follows that up with another strong start against Tampa Bay next weekend. They’ll just have to hope he can pick it up enough to make their decision easier this winter.
For that, we’ll have to just stick with Johnson as the Blue Jays have; start to start.