Aug 6, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson delivers a pitch against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. The Blue Jays defeated the Mariners 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
As the FanSided Faux-Winter Meetings continued, many of the top names on the free agent market were quickly coming off the board. The Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval (before the real-life team even came to terms with those players), while the Blue Jays pounced on Russell Martin and Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians, of course, were not in the market for any of those players. As a small market team, we were on the hunt for high-upside pitching. While names such as Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields were ruled out due to their high price tags, the Indians found one buy-low candidate that interested them.
Josh Johnson was fantastic for the Miami Marlins bewteen 2008 and 2012; a fact that is easy to overlook due to his poor 2013 season with the Blue Jays and his 2014 spent entirely on the DL. During his five years with the Marlins, Johnson logged 731.2 innings with a 3.06 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 1.18 WHIP. His 44-27 record during that time was respectable, and his 3.1 K-BB ratio was solid if unspectacular. He was stingy with the homers (6.8% HR/FB) and pretty good at getting grounders (47.8% ground ball rate).
Unfortunately for Johnson, nagging injuries derailed his 2013 season, leading to a bloated 6.20 ERA. He then proceeded to miss the entire 2014 season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. We were able to sign him for $2 million plus added incentives for starts made. Under our contract, Johnson could earn 100K for making 10 starts and another 100K for making 20 starts.
The real question that I’m sure many of you are wondering is, why non-tender Josh Tomlin just to sign Josh Johnson for slightly more money? Both have had at least one Tommy John surgery, both struggled in their recent performances, and heck, they’re both named Josh. Why non-tender Tomlin to re-sign a similar pitcher for a slightly higher price?
The answer is simple: Upside. Johnson was an ace pitcher with the Marlins for five years, while Tomlin was never an ace pitcher for more than one game. Bringing Johnson in to battle for the fifth rotation spot could present a significant upgrade for an already-dirty-as-hell Cleveland rotation. If Johnson can return to his Miami form, the Indians have a steal. If not, heck, that kind of upside is worth the $2 million risk. Tomlin, on the other hand, has proven for years that he’s a homer-prone fly ball pitcher with no more than mid-rotation potential.
After this signing, the Cleveland payroll sits at about $73 million for 2015
What do you think about the signing of Josh Johnson? We encourage you to comment below or tweet us at @wahoosonfirst