It looks as if Josh Johnson will miss his next start, as he missed his scheduled Sunday bullpen session. Johnson has been plagued with back and shoulder issues for the last week or so, and the Marlins are considering options as the team goes forward, including shutting him down for the year.
Johnson is signed with the Marlins for another three years, so the team has a vested interest in maintaining his health. It is good to hear that the Fish are considering options with JJ, but I think airing on the safe side here is the best policy. If there is a remote chance that these injuries could develop further into more dangerous health issues, the team should go ahead and shut down Johnson’s season.
There is some temptation to get Johnson more playing time in order to have him compete for the Cy Young award. The NL Cy Young is undoubtedly going to boil down to a three-horse race between Johnson, Roy Halladay, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Johnson currently leads the NL in fWAR and is second to Halladay in rWAR, so if he kept pace for the remainder of September, I’m certain he would remain in competition and indeed perhaps be in the lead. However, even if Johnson is shut down for the remainder of the year, I expect he will still get award looks, and while he might not have a chance to win, he will remain healthy for next season.
Baseball Prospectus’ injury expert Will Carroll weighed in on Johnson’s back:
The Marlins have already waved off his already pencilled-in Wednesday start, but sources tell me they’ll go ahead and shut him down. It’s a bit of a negative that he comes up just shy of 200 innings again, but really the “magic number” for longevity that I saw in my admittedly incomplete studies was 190 innings. Johnson is one, maybe two starts from that mark, but it’s not worth any risk. Johnson should be back next year and can be reasonably expected to be back at this level.
I absolutely agree with Carroll here. While it would be nice to get a full season out of Johnson and see how much better he would be by year’s end (my suspicion is that a 7-WAR season is not out of the question), his value over the next three seasons is far more valuable. I would be happy to bid adieu to Johnson’s 2010, knowing that it was a very successful one.