Josh Johnson defines reclamation project, could sign one-year deal

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes expects free-agent starting pitcher Josh Johnson to eventually sign a one-year, $8 million contract with around $5 million in incentives.

Johnson made four starts in 2013 before going on the disabled list with triceps tightness.  He returned a month later to make 12 starts, but again landed on the disabled list with a forearm injury that eventually led to arthroscopic surgery. He and the Blue Jays have said he will be ready for Spring Training.

1297378498367_ORIGINALIn the end, he made just 16 starts. However, despite a 6.20 ERA and just two wins, he had the highest K/9 rate of his career and a 3.58 xFIP, while averaging 93 mph with his fastball. Or, as Dierkes puts it, “Even in a year in which almost nothing went right, Johnson still threw hard and whiffed more than a batter per inning.”

In other words, he reads like the quintessential Sandy Alderson free-agent signing, along the lines of a Shaun Marcum, but better. He’s a total reclamation project with good underpinnings, who will likely be attracted to the Mets because he knows the division and it’s a good place to rebuild his value. On the other hand, he could end up making 10 sporadic starts, interrupted by several trips to the DL, during a season when the Mets need more than that in the absence of Matt Harvey.

The way I understand it, the Mets would like to sign a reliable, stable, strong, veteran innings eater to a one- or two-year deal, which makes me think Bronson Arroyo based solely on the description. Then, they’ll also look to sign one or two low-risk guys, think Aaron Harang, to either crack the rotation or end up starting the season in Triple-A.

Johnson fits the mold of that second pitcher, but I get the feeling Alderson would rather spend that $8 to $10 million on two or three reclamation projects as opposed to one.

Michael Baron, Contributor

When he’s healthy, Johnson is easily one of the better pitchers in baseball, and it’s hard not to be tempted by what Johnson might provide on a one-year gamble. He has a hard and heavy fastball, misses a lot of bats with that and his nasty slider and he racks up the strikeouts while historically limiting the walks, although he’s seen his walk rate rise over the last few seasons. He would be a strong fit for the Mets on paper as he knows the division from his time in Miami and he keeps the ball in the ballpark, especially against lefties. He also had tremendous mound presence when he was with the Marlins, and he seemed to just intimidate the Mets with his tantalizing stuff, evidenced by his dominant numbers against them over the years.

But, health is such a major issue for Johnson and it’s unrealistic to expect Johnson to contribute the way the Mets need him to. In the end, Johnson has pitched three complete seasons out of nine, and that might be too much of a risk for this team to digest with the expected shortage in their starting rotation. His issues always seem to stem from his arm, and the fragility of his situation could make the Mets – and a lot of teams in need of starting pitching – shy away.

In theory, the Mets only need to bridge the gap to June while they wait for Noah Syndergaard and/or Rafael Montero to arrive, but I think the Mets need more than a loose plug to fill one of their holes, because there’s no way to predict what might happen with their prospects (see Travis d’Arnaud and his broken foot last April).


Read More: MLB Trade Rumors (Dierkes)