Josh Johnson to the Padres Makes Sense
The San Diego Padres signed RHP Josh Johnson to a one-year pact worth $8 million on Tuesday. The deal includes about $1.25 million in performance bonuses if the injury-plagued Johnson makes 26 or more starts in 2014. 2013 was a lost year for Johnson, as he struggled with many injuries, as well as reduced fastball velocity, more than likely a consequence of the injuries. Johnson came to the Blue Jays in the fire-sale trade from the Marlins around this time last year. He started 16 games for the Jays, going 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA and for those of you that don’t trust ERA as a full measure of what a pitcher gives up, Johnson finished with a 4.62 FIP; still not a good mark for that particular metric.
However, for a team like the Padres, this kind of a deal makes sense, It is a low-risk high-reward signing. There were rumors abound that Johnson had narrowed his choices down to at least 4 National League teams, some reckon he chose the Padres due to the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco park. That assessment however may be not as iron-clad as we all once believed. Either way, it is clear Johnson was looking for a deal that would allow him to reassert himself as an ace. With this signing, the Padres hope that Johnson can return to his 2010 form where he went 11-6 with a league-leading 2.30 ERA and 191 Ks. Even if Johnson cannot return to that form, he still may be able to put up serviceable numbers if he stays healthy.
The downside is the possibility that Johnson continues to tank. If the injuries return, a lot of his dominating stuff will be diminished like it was in 2013, for example, his HR/FB % spiked from a 8.0% in 2012 to 17.6% in 2013. For a team that hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2006, a healthy Josh Johnson in a rotation with Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and Cory Luebke/Eric Stults may be just the ticket back.
I think that Johnson will have a bounce back year in 2014, but he won’t put him his 2010 numbers. In case of injury, the Padres have plenty of serviceable options to plug into the rotation. I predict that he starts exactly 26 games and finishes with 12 wins and an ERA around 3.15. If he does put up those kinds of numbers, look for him to get a larger multi-year contract when he becomes a free agent again at the end of 2014.
– Christopher Bradley