The New York Yankees have three starting spots to fill in their rotation as of now, with only C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova signed to contracts for 2014. There have been rumblings about the Yanks going hard for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, and his countryman Hiroki Kuroda has a strong possibility of returning.
However, those signings are not written in stone and the Yankees have to have a backup plan if those two options do not don pinstripes next year.
Enter Josh Johnson. The 6-foot-7 righty was once a dominant starter with the then Florida and now Miami Marlins. But injuries have hampered his career, including his first year in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays in which he only threw 81.1 innings and posted an ugly 6.20 ERA. He is now coming off surgery that fixed spurs in his pitching elbow and is as questionable as ever going forward.
So the question is should the Yankees take a chance on Johnson? He is obviously not their first choice, but in the event that they don’t get either of their Japanese choices, he is one of their backup plans along with Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez had the best year of the three in 2013 and therefore would be the most expensive, yet he isn’t a sure thing as he had subpar seasons previously. Haren has racked up the second-most innings behind only C.C. Sabathia from 2005-2011. We know how the amount of pitches has affected Sabathia with his fastball velocity in recent decline.
Johnson would be a low-risk, high-reward player because he will surely be inexpensive coming off an abysmal year. He would be a bottom-of-the-rotation guy who, if healthy, could return to All-Star form. That would be the very best-case scenario. The more likely one is him pitching around 150 innings to an ERA in the low fours, and the worst case is that his arm falls off completely.
I say it’s a risk worth taking on a one-year deal because even if he lands on the disabled list for a prolonged period of time, the 2013 season proved that the Yankees do have spot starters who can fill in like David Phelps and Adam Warren.