Remember last November, when the Padres rolled the dice on Josh Johnson, the talented but frequently-injured starting pitcher? An $8 million contract for 2014, with a club option for $4 million in 2015 if Johnson didn’t pitch in seven games in 2014?
Of course you do. Johnson’s signing was one of the reasons Padres fans were optimistic about 2014. And it was crushing when Johnson first went on the DL in March with a “strained forearm”, then was out for the year by April with his second TJ surgery.
You don’t think the Padres should pick up the club option for 2015, do you. “We’ve already blown 8 mil on this guy and he hasn’t pitched a single game for us. Cut our losses now,” is probably what you’ve been thinking.
It’s probably what the Padres have been thinking, too. And Johnson is smart enough to recognize that. So he has changed the parameters.
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According to a report from Jeff Sanders at the U-T, Johnson has said that he wants to return to the Padres, whether or not they pick up the option. In short, that means that the Padres can decide not to pay him the $4 million, and then just negotiate with him if they decide they do want to keep him around for another year.
The one good thing about this year, for both the Padres and for Johnson, is that JJ spent the year with the team, in the clubhouse, building relationships, and learning from Darren Balsley and Bud Black. He feels like a Padre now.
“I really do want to come back. I really enjoyed my time here, so I would like to come back. If they decline the option, I’d like to work something out that works out for both sides,” Sanders quotes Johnson as saying on Wednesday.
That puts the Padres in a very favorable bargaining position. Johnson had front row seats for the 2014 Padres pitching staff, one of the best Padres staffs in team history. He watched Tyson Ross develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. He was witness to Andrew Cashner pitching, hitting, and running with an uncommon passion for the game of baseball. He was there as, night after night, the bullpen held leads for the starters.
He has drunk the Kool-Aid. He wants to come back. And that gives the Padres an advantage over other teams that might want to bid for Johnson’s services.
At $4 million dollars, not many teams would take a chance on a guy who hasn’t pitched well since 2012, and who was coming off a second Tommy John. But since he’s stated a willingness to negotiate, there may be a price at which the former 2010 fifth-place Cy Young finisher looks a lot more attractive.
And stockpiling inexpensive pitching is never a bad idea.
So maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally see a return on this investment. Stay tuned.
Keep the Faith.