The Uncertain Future of Josh Johnson

He towers the mound at 6’7″. He weighs in at 250 pounds. His fastball velocity clocks in at 93 miles per hour. He possesses a wipeout slider. He’s a former NL ERA champion and two-time All-Star starting pitcher.

Josh Johnson certainly has all the makings of an ace, but for whatever reason, he just hasn’t been able to put it all together with the Toronto Blue Jays this season.

Perhaps more than any other pitcher on the Blue Jays staff this season, Josh Johnson has been the most perplexing arm of the bunch. He came into Opening Day as one of the most promising offseason acquisitions, but at this point he’s looking more like a lost opportunity.


At the beginning of the season, Josh Johnson was one of the players I thought the Blue Jays needed to sign to a contract extension immediately. Admittedly, it was sign unseen, but if he pitched well this year, it was only a foregone conclusion that JJ would be out the door by season’s end.

Now with everything that has transpired this season, that may not be the case.

Given, injuries have hampered Johnson in the first half, allowing him to make just 12 starts prior to the All-Star Break. However, in the handful of games he has taken the mound, Josh Johnson has offered a mixed bag of results.

Not surprisingly, Jeff Passan reported yesterday the Blue Jays have no interest whatsoever in trading Josh Johnson. I don’t believe the Blue Jays are insistent on hanging on Josh Johnson, I think it’s because his value could not be lower than at this very moment.

What exactly could the Blue Jays fetch in return for Josh Johnson right now? A fringe prospect? A player to be named later? Cash? Another player with a bloated contract? All of those don’t seem like very appealing options for the Blue Jays … a team that’s in “win now” mode. 

Josh Johnson appears to hold far more value for the Blue Jays by remaining in the starting rotation and contributing in the second half than whatever he would fetch on the trade market. Even if that means Johnson walks at the end of the season.

Fear not, even if that is the case, the Blue Jays could always send a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson after the World Series. The Blue Jays stand to benefit either way it goes; if Johnson accepts, then he comes back next year at a little more than the $13.75 million he’s making this year.

And if Josh Johnson declines, then the Blue Jays receive a compensatory first round pick. As Steve Adams noted over on MLBTR, that sets Toronto up quite nicely in the 2014 draft.

“Because the Jays were unable to sign 2013 first-rounder Phil Bickford, Johnson declining and signing elsewhere would give them three picks in the first round of the 2014 draft – the same scenario their division rivals, the Yankees, enjoyed in 2013.”

Knowing Alex Anthopoulos’ propensity for draft picks, the possibility of having three selections in the first round of the 2014 must be very intriguing. Really, there isn’t a scenario in which the Blue Jays don’t benefit; whether Josh Johnson sticks around next year or not.


Perhaps Josh Johnson does in fact accept the qualifying offer in an effort to rebuild his value on the open market. Seems like a smart strategy for a pitcher who was poised to garner a multi-million dollar contract as a free agent at the end of this season.

I suppose what it all boils down to is does Josh Johnson want to get paid, or does he want to win? If it’s the former, then there’s bound to be some team out there that wants to sign him to a multi-year contract.

If Edwin Jackson received a 4-year/$52 million dollar contract from the Chicago Cubs, then anything is possible. There’s always a team out there like the Los Angeles Dodgers that seemingly have money to burn.

However, if it’s a chance at a World Series ring that Josh Johnson desires, that opens up his options to quite a few more teams. Does he instead sign with a perennial contender like the St. Louis Cardinals or Texas Rangers? Heck, why not the New York Yankees?

Or perhaps Josh Johnson feels his best chance to win is to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays. Considering how poorly the first half was, they’re surely poised to fare much better in 2014 with the bulk of the roster returning next year.

If the Blue Jays are going to bounce back in the second
half, Josh Johnson will undoubtedly be one of the keys to their success.
Primarily, they’ll need him to merely stay healthy; but secondly, the
Blue Jays will need him to channel some of the magic from when he was
with the Marlins.


At the start of 2013, I couldn’t imagine this starting rotation without Josh Johnson as a pillar in the rotation. But considering that Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow and Happ are all under contract next year, there are plenty of options to replace Johnson if he walks.

Josh Johnson is by no means irreplaceable in the starting rotation … but one wonders where the Blue Jays would find an arm like his for the 2014 season without having to overpay in dollars and over-commit on years.

The future of Josh Johnson and the Toronto Blue Jays is unsure at this moment, but what is certain is Toronto is in a position to benefit whether he sticks around in 2014 or not.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.