Josh Johnson contract talks stall

This according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Here’s the bad news.

Agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com that negotiations between the Marlins and Johnson have reached an “impasse,” and Johnson expects to play under a one-year deal in 2010. Johnson will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and a failure to reach agreement on a multiyear contract would probably force the Marlins to explore a trade before then.

“Based on our conversations, there’s no chance of doing a long-term deal with the Marlins,” Sosnick said. “We made it clear that it was going to be this year or it wasn’t going to happen. It was now or never. And the Marlins agreed.”

I sincerely hope that this is not the case and that talks are still ongoing. Of course, I have no reason not to believe this, so let’s just roll with it.

Josh Johnson is going into his second year of arbitration. If there was a time to trade a young pitcher for the best haul possible, it would be now, coming off a good season that may or may not be repeatable and with another two seasons of team control left before an extension would even be necessary. I had figured that the Marlins may balk on a fourth year given their stance on not giving more than two-year deals to pitchers, so this is not surprising. I do question whether the team will even bother to extend Johnson if they do not want to do it by buying out arbitration years. They would have likely paid around arbitration price for JJ’s services in an extension anyway. Skimping on the fourth year sounds like the team has no plans of extending him even if he reaches free agency right before the “cash cow” new stadium opens.

All that being said, if they plan on going year-to-year with him and then dealing him, why not just do it now? It may sound blasphemous, but it may be important as well. If you think JJ is, let’s say, a five-win starter for the next two seasons, then you’re looking at a surplus value of around $30M, which would be more than enough to get back talent akin to Miguel Cabrera’s deal. Combine that with the possibility that a team will be able to sign Johnson for slightly below market value in an extension, and the Marlins could have upwards of $35M in surplus ready to trade away.

Of course, the team would also be ripping fans’ hearts out once again, so there is definitely some harm in this move. But a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, packaged perhaps even with Dan Uggla, for a package that starts with Chad Billingsley and some of their other notable players (I mentioned James McDonald and Scott Elbert before) could wor-

I’m not going to speculate. I almost did (or maybe I already did), but I shouldn’t. The Marlins have to decide whether they are planning on competing this upcoming season. It is certain they will deal Uggla for what they can get. It’s possible they may trade Jorge Cantu or even Cody Ross, provided the deal is right. But if Johnson is not going to be extended, you have to wonder why we would also hang on to him, especially when other Marlins starters (like perhaps Ricky Nolasco) could also use some extension cash. Then again, if the team thinks it can compete next year, maybe it would be best to try and hang onto Johnson and shoot at an extension once again the following year, this time for the team’s desired three seasons.

It’s just a thought, Maniac fans, but what do you think? Should the Marlins at least entertain the idea of using Johnson as trade bait if they do not plan on extending him?

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  • Moti

    Michael,

    I knew this issue would eventually surface this offseason. I tried to live in ignorant bliss and focus instead on Uggla, Cantu, Coghlan while hoping that they get a deal done with JJ.

    If we cannot get an extension done, we HAVE TO TRADE HIM NOW. He is at his peak value; we could get a lot in return. I am in the minority, but I do not think he is a true ace. I saw countless games last year where he faltered in the late innings. We all remember the game in DC where he blew up in the 9th. I also remember him taking a no-hitter game into the 7th a few times just to surrender 2-3 runs in that inning. With that being said, JJ is a stud. Unfortunately, the fish operate quite differently from any other organization. This wouldn’t even be an issue with any other franchise. The smart move would be to trade him. A package centered around Phillip Hughes and Jesus Montero would be nice.

    To tell you the truth, I can’t even think about this right now. I want to enjoy my Friday night without feeling a slew of different emotions regarding this topic. Have a good one.

    • Michael Jong

      Moti,

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to think about it. I do think Johnson has the capability to be a top-notch, 5-win starter each year and such, but I don’t think the Marlins should hold off getting the best value from him if they do not plan on extending. There is no better time to deal Johnson than now, but if the team thinks it can compete, I’d be happy to have Johnson for another season. The problem is, will the team be aggressive searching for the best cheap free agents to fill team needs, or will it falter and hand jobs out to Emilio Bonifacio or other poorer in-house options.

      If the Marlins want to go out and spend money to get one of the many free agent third basemen and/or get someone like Eric Hinske, while dropping Cantu for whatever we can get, then I think the team is doing the best it can to win next year. If it decides to hand any starting role to Bonifacio, I implore the Marlins to deal Johnson and Uggla for as much future value as possible, because our team will not compete as currently constructed (minus Uggla).