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Ferguson: Will the Blue Jays re-sign Johnson?

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Scott Ferguson
3/29/2013 12:09:59 PM
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The Major League season doesn't even start for a couple of more days. So its really too early to get worked up about a possible player defection, but this one could really hurt the Blue Jays down the road.

 Josh Johnson had the best camp of any of the Blue Jays starting pitchers, though R.A Dickey being away at the World Baseball Classic, and then pitching in mainly minor league games after that was a mitigating factor.

 Johnson is starting to rekindle memories, of the pitcher he was before his shoulder woes. In 2009 and 2010, he went a combined 26-11 and in the second year, his era was 2.30. Johnson stuck out 377 over the two seasons and walked only 106.

 Johnson's 2011 season was derailed by shoulder inflamation and though he bounced back somewhere last season, his record was only 8-14 for the lowly Marlins.

 This is the final year of Johnson's contract before he hits free agency. Its worth $13.75 million, though 2.5 of it is being paid by the Marlins. Every other Jays starter, save one, Brandon Morrow is locked up for at least three years and that includes Ricky Romero, Mark Buehrle, R.A Dickey and J.A Happ. Morrow is guaranteed two more years.

 Johnson has put up some decent numbers over his career including a 56-37 record and a 3.15 earned run average. If he stays healthy he could be poised for greatness, but you wonder if the Jays will pay that price, especially, if Ricky Romero doesn't return to form and they have to eat the $23.1 million they still owe him through 2015.

 Based on this season alone Johnson is the highest paid pitcher on this staff. If he has an outstanding season, his value will skyrocket. If he has a mediocre season, will the Jays just let him walk or try to sign him at a bargain price?  With Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison due to be back pitching at some point over the final two months of his season, the likelihood of them re-signing Johnson doesn't seem all that great.

 You also have to consider this, St. Louis signed their ace right hander Adam Wainright to a five-year deal worth $97.5 million dollars this week, that included a no-trade clause. Wainright has had physical problems too, missing the entire 2011 season due to "Tommy John" elbow surgery.

 Wainright has put up slightly better numbers over his seven years with an 80-48 record and a 3.15 era, which matchesJohnson's. But if Johnson has a great season and leads the Jays to the post-season for the first time since 1993, he could be looking at Wainright numbers in 2014.

 I'm not saying they wouldn't try to retain Johnson, I just think they'd think twice considering the commitment they have to their other veteran pitchers and the younger arms that are on the way. 

An interesting twist to this, as Sun media's Bob Elliot discovered, Johnson's parents are Canadian and he spent some time in his youth growing up in  Calgary, before the family relocated to the States. So Johnson could conceivably pitch for Team Canada at the next World Baseball Classic in 2017. 

It would be awkward for the Blue Jays to let a " Canadian" walk at the end of this season. Maybe they won't, but the numbers seem to suggest, it could be one and done for Johnson with the Blue Jays.

Josh Johnson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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