Brian Sabean needs to do something silly soon. Like, trade Jonathan Sanchez for Jorge Cantu or Tim Lincecum for Alexis Rios silly, otherwise, the Giants are having an amusingly solid off-season. It started by adding Josh Phelps, next signing Jeremy Affeldt, and then inking Bob Howry and Edgar Renteria, but Sabean may have topped himself today by signing Randy Johnson for one year and eight million. Okay, there are some jokes to be made concerning the Giants and Johnson’s advanced age, but he’s still pretty good.
In fact, Johnson was one of the better starters in the league last season, even at 44 years of age. Johnson threw 184 innings while maintaining a 3.76 FIP, an 8.46 strikeout per nine ratio, and walking only 2.15 per nine. Johnson’s .316 batting average on balls in play is a bit higher than you would expect from a pitcher who allows 18.2% line drives, but not high enough that you can claim bad luck.
Marcels punishes Johnson for his age, but still has him throwing 158 innings with a 4.11 FIP. That’s a ~2 win improvement over 158 innings than a replacement level starter, or a slightly worse version of Kevin Correia’s 2008. If Johnson pitches to that level, he’s earned his contract, and that speaks more to the quality of the contract than the Giants expectations of Johnson. This is a far better contract than the one given to fellow senior hurler Jamie Moyer.
Johnson’s velocity was down from previous years – from 92-93 to 90-91, but even that didn’t stop the Big Unit from helping to form an outstanding rotation in Arizona. Speaking of which, now the Giants rotation is something like: Lincecum, Matt Cain, Johnson, Sanchez, and Barry Zito. That very well could be the best rotation in the National League.
Dave and Matthew have written extensively about Johnson being a bargain and Arizona mistakenly letting him walk, but both points need to be touched upon again. At the time, Matthew wrote: “[Arizona] made a huge, potentially division-costing mistake…” at the time, Johnson to the Cubs was the rumor du jour, now Johnson has landed with a division rival. Pardon the awful pun, but the Diamondbacks might be snake-bit by this move multiple times in 2009.
Congratulations to the Giants fans who’ve endured a post-Bonds world, this Giants team is looking like a potential contender for the division crown. Now, just prepare yourselves for all of the witty “Giants/Big Unit/Giant of a Pitcher” headlines sure to follow.