Josh Johnson’s Extension

The Marlins locked up their most talented pitcher on Thursday, as they agreed to terms with 26-year-old SP Josh Johnson on a four-year, 39 million dollar contract. The deal will pay 3.75MM in ’10 and 7.75MM in ’11, Johnson’s last two years of arbitration, and buys out his first two years of free agency at $13.75MM per season.

Johnson is, simply put, a very talented pitcher. Despite only logging 481.1 career innings and 76 career starts, or about 2.5 seasons worth of starting, Johnson has already compiled 10.3 wins above replacement. He follows the general template of success for good pitchers – good strikeout numbers (7.95 K/9), and solid walk totals (3.27 BB/9), but most of all, he keeps the ball in the yard, as he only allows .67 home runs per 9 innings. Normally, a rate this low would signal luck, but Johnson is a heavy ground ball pitcher (48% ground balls to only 32.5% fly balls on his career), and so this is more a function of Johnson’s pitching than any sort of lucky circumstances.

Going by the standard 40%/60%/80% valuation of arbitration seasons, this contract is effectively paying for the equivalent of 3.4 free agent seasons of Johnson (.6+.8+2). With Johnson valued as a roughly 4.0 win player in his prime, the deal is paying for about 13.6 wins, and that’s a conservative estimate. That means that the deal is paying 2.9 million dollars per marginal win, well under either the $3.5M or $4.0M estimates that have been thrown around, and far under the $4.4M value of a marginal win from 2009.

The obvious comparison for this deal is Zack Greinke’s four-year, 38 million dollar contract that he received last offseason. Both players had similar paths to their deals. After putting up good numbers in ’05 and ’06, Greinke missed nearly all of ’07, but returned with a very strong season in 2008, which, much like Johnson’s 2009, was worth roughly 5 wins above replacement. Greinke’s contract bought out the same exact years of his career: year two of arbitration through year two of free agency. However, the marginal value of a win in the 2009 market was closer to 4.4 million, meaning that Johnson is actually being paid more in comparison to expected value than Greinke was back in 2009.

Obviously, the Greinke contract has been very favorable to the club so far, given Greinke’s historical 2009 season, in which he put up 9.4 WAR. It’s hard to imagine the Marlins getting that kind of return on their investment. It does look like the Marlins are getting a solid deal, however, and it can’t hurt that this news is coming out only days after the MLB released a statement regarding the Marlins’ thrifty ways with their revenue sharing income.

Overall, this deal seems like a win-win. Johnson gains financial security at a good rate for an arbitration player, and the Marlins retain a talented piece that will be a key to any possible playoff run in the next four years.




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Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.


15 Responses to “Josh Johnson’s Extension”

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  1. Joe R says:

    I think this deal is as much a by-product of the rebuke from MLB’s front office as anything.

    About time, too.

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    • Steve says:

      beat me to it.

      they kindof HAD to do this. not that it isn’t a good deal, it is. but it’s not a coincidence that the Marlins refused to go to 4 years earlier this offseason and have now relented.

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      • geo says:

        And they’ll trade him when he gets to 13.75 million in year three.

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      • JoeR43 says:

        Yeah, let’s not go investing heavily in the South Florida community just yet, JJ, you could be 2 years away from Boston / New York / LA.

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      • Michael says:

        I resent the negativity here as a Marlins fan. I’m sure the team would consider trading either Johnson or Ramirez even with their deals locked up if it were beneficial or the team were forced to by its ownership. However, both deals are unprecedented for the organization, so we have no basis in saying things like “they’ll trade them when they get expensive.” I’m sure the Marlins know the relative bargains they’re getting even in the late stages of the players’ respective contracts, and knowing that their long-term future has some surplus value may incline the Marlins to keep those players.

        This doesn’t even consider the possibility that the new stadium may actually help increase payroll. If it does, the team may actually be able to hold onto these players even longer. So let’s not jump to conclusions either way.

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      • Steve says:

        Your team just got admonished by the league for what basically amounts to pocketing their revenue sharing money.

        Why should you “resent” the negativity? They were clearly wrong. It’s not exactly unfair criticism.

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      • Michael says:

        @Steve: Not really replying to your comment. The admonishment was absolutely fair.

        That being said, this deal has been in the making for a while, and the relenting of the fourth year has nothing to do with the specific agreement of increasing payroll for 2010 and 2011 (years leading into the 2012 stadium opening).

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      • Whartonite says:

        so we have no basis in saying things like “they’ll trade them when they get expensive.”
        —–

        Not exactly the same situation, but what about Carlos Delgado?

        I love this signing, but I’m pretty sure that Johnson won’t play out the whole deal. If he’s still himself (or better) after 2.5-3 years, I’d expect him to be gone. Same could go for Hanley. I’m sure at the end of their contracts, the Marlins could get much more than draft picks by dealing them.

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      • Jack Moore says:

        Personally, I have a hard time believing that this all happened between the time of the admonishment and Thursday. It is, of course, convenient timing, but this was clearly already in the works.

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      • pounded clown says:

        And to add to what “Steve” said….Not just pocketing the revenue sharing but the frigging rain. As a Phillies fan my team is guaranteed 9 trips to that swamp. I’ve lost count of how many times my team’s rotation and bull pen stressed because rain delays screwed the starting pitchers out innings. Did someone forget that from March til October its monsoon season? It’s an anomally when it doesn’t rain there during these months. Seattle had the foresight. The Fish and the Rox didn’t get the memo on how atmospheric conditions might affect the game…well at least the Fish are finally doing something about it.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      I doubt it. A deal like this doesn’t get initiated and completed in just two days. They’ve probably been working on this for several weeks, if not the whole offseason. The timing is likely coincidental.

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      • Steve says:

        Just as the Marlins were probably aware that they were going to be admonished by the league for several weeks prior to the press release.

        I would be shocked if the two were not related. JMO.

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      • Nathaniel Dawson says:

        Yes, if they were able to get advance notice of this, the two could well be related. Then again, they’ve done this same thing with Hanley Ramirez without any pressure from the outside. Could be related, may be just coincidence.

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  2. ATepperm says:

    I read somewhere (here? WWL?) that the Marlins are being pressured by the MLBPA to raise their payroll into the Oakland-Baltimore-Tampa region. Presumably this will help them get there (and seems like a very decent deal to boot).

    That said, now that the Marlins have a couple of (relatively) big contracts on the books, can we assume Uggla’s on his way out forthwith?

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  3. Kevin S. says:

    I’m not sure why you would ever look at someone’s HR/9 and make assumptions about luck, Jack. We know ground ball pitchers give up fewer home runs. You stated that in your next phrase. Why even mention luck? It’s HR/FB that normalizes (park effects excluded).

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