Sometime this week the Marlins plan to have discussions with agent Matt Sosnick regarding a contract for Josh Johnson.
Whether there is movement on a multiyear deal will depend on a key factor.
Sosnick claims if the Marlins will guarantee a four-year deal then he will listen.
Good news to hear, I’d say. It does seem that the sticking point in the negotiation process is the guaranteed fourth year. In early December, I talked to Josh Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick and asked him why the compromise of a vesting option for the fourth year would be unacceptable. Sosnick’s response was logical: JJ wants to stay in Florida, but not guaranteeing the fourth year would be highly disadvantageous at this point compared to the option of just waiting for free agency. When I asked about the potential risk of injury, Sosnick mentioned that Johnson would still hold value through his arbitration seasons even through a major, non-career-threatening injury. Given that highly likely possibility, there would be no upside to guaranteeing only up to the first year of free agency given Johnson’s alternative of waiting to cash in for that season. The only way the extension would be made would be to guarantee Johnson through two years of free agency.
When Sosnick explained it to me, it did indeed make sense. As he mentions, the Marlins are likely to hold on to Johnson barring a catastrophic injury, so he would be guaranteed his arbitration years anyway. At that point, all the Marlins are guaranteeing is the first season of free agency at a reduced rate. If Johnson were to suffer an injury that year, his first foray into free agency would be poorly leveraged. At that point, I can see why Sosnick and Johnson would prefer to wait for free agency over taking a reduced offer without that guaranteed year.
What’s my opinion? Anything the Marlins do to hold onto JJ should be continued. I do not believe that he is the upper-echelon starter that he appeared to be last year, but he does appear to be a consistent All-Star performer in the making. Passing up on a 4+ WAR per season starter when you have a chance to lock him up would be detrimental to the club, especially when the team does not seem to consider any other pitcher in the same light. The Marlins would be paying around $12-15M each year for the two free agent seasons Johnson would be giving up. Considering that he looks to make $18M by the time he gets to the market (an estimate based on continued excellent performance), that’s a decent discount for the team.
In any case, we’ll wait and see. It was good to hear Matt say that JJ did indeed want to stay with the Marlins, and that was why he was willing to go at a Zack Greinke-like rate for four years. It remains to be seen whether the Marlins will give out four years, but right now I’m feeling far more optimistic.