At the urging of Major League Baseball Players association or not, the Marlins and Josh Johnson agreed on a four-year deal worth $39 million dollars. Johnson, 26 at the end of January, was arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. The Marlins avoid any potential hearings over the next
three two years and secure an additional two seasons of Johnson's services in the process.
When the news broke about the extension, comparisons to Royals deal with Zack Greinke last year. On the surface the two deals are very similar. The terms are almost exact. Each received four-year contracts with Johnson getting a million more than his AL counterpart. Both pitchers were roughly the same age and both coming off ~5 WAR seasons (5.5 for Johnson, 4.9 for Grienke). However, there are quite a few differences.
Johnson was a monster in South Florida last year. Nonetheless, his 5.5 WAR in 2009 represents over half of his career total of 10.3. He also passed 200 innings for the first time his career and went over 100 innings in a season for the second time. When Greinke signed, he had just over 12 WAR in the bank and over 650 innings pitched. Neither are major differences, but ones to be noted.
We all know Greinke missed time due to his issues with depression and anxiety; however, physically he is pretty clean. On the other hand, Johnson has had major arm surgery and has made over 25 starts just one time in his young career. That said, he remained healthy for most of 2009 (small bout of shoulder discomfort in September) and Joe Girardi is no where near him.
Though the deal is back loaded ($27.5 million in final two seasons), at four years and $39 million dollars overall, the team is basically asking for 2.5 Wins per season from Johnson. Injuries aside, that should be a breeze for the 6-foot-7 righty. Despite velocity in the mid 90s, he doesn't miss as many bats or strike out as many as you would expect. However, unlike most young fireballers, he controls his walks and keeps the ball in the yard. He has also picked up the nifty ability to induce ground balls, going over 50% this past season.
Of course, the move comes with injury-risk as well as the potential all young studs have of going all Dontrelle Willis after an extension. I know it sounds like I'm down on this deal, but really I am not (check my twitter!). The deal is actually a great one for the Marlins and a great sign for Marlins fans. With a little kick in the ass from the MLBPA, maybe the Florida franchise won't be so quick to sell off players in order to pad the pockets of the front office.
Bonus Beyond the Box Score: In nearly the same amount of plate appearances last season, Johnson had an OPS nearly .100 higher than teammate and current free-agent, Alfredo Amezaga.