In some ways, you could say that the one-year, $8 million contact (with incentives) that Josh Johnson signed with the San Diego Padres would have been the ideal sort of deal for the Toronto Blue Jays to have brought him back on.
Hindsight is 20-20, of course, and this conclusion was probably bound to happen once the team had decided against offering him a $14.1 million qualifying offer that would have likely locked him up north of the border for one more season. That would not necessarily have been the right thing to do, and while there was no reason for Johnson to agreed to stay the AL East for another season at $8 million, was there a middle ground somewhere to be had?
Those are questions that may linger throughout 2014 as the Blue Jays continue to move towards its next campaign without any clear indication of how they will avoid the disaster that was 2013.
Johnson was a major part of that, and there was probably a point in the season when the idea of giving the former Miami Marlins ace an offer of $8 million would have sounded pretty silly, but this wasn’t just any piece in a failed experiment. Sure, the Blue Jays also got back Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in the blockbuster deal, but Johnson was a primary guy that Alex Anthopoulos coveted, and the team gave up significant futures to bring him in.
In that sense, there was perhaps more of an onus for the team to stick it through and see what a healthy season of the right-hander would yield, rather than just letting him walk in what quickly became a lost season.
Besides, the numbers would have at least backed that up. Despite an uncharacteristically poor 1.66 HR/9 in 2013, Johnson also put together nice peripherals of 9.18 K/9 and 3.32 BB/9, good enough for a 3.58 xFIP that suggests he could easily outperform the 6.20 ERA he posted through 81.1 innings. This will almost certainly happen with the Padres in 2014 even if he’s mostly the same pitcher stuff-wise … as long as he’s healthy enough to pitch, that is.
Still, both health and counting numbers considered, it’s not as if the Blue Jays were put into a position where an easy decision could have been made.
Considering the market for pitchers this offseason from the buyer’s perspective, though, and the fact is that whoever that Toronto may bring in will likely have a fair share of risks themselves, and potentially would have come at a similar cost with lesser upside. Actually, a bounce-back candidate like Johnson would have pretty much fit the bill of what the Bluebirds will be looking for, yes?
If he’d pitched for another team last season, would the Anthopoulos and co. have pursued the matter a little harder?
It’s all impossible to say at this point, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter either way; but given the Blue Jays’ luck over the last couple of seasons … I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being looked back as “shoulda” situation, you know?