Josh Johnson has once led the National League in earned-run average, twice been named a National League all-star, and three times earned the honour as the Miami Marlins’ opening-day starter.
But his inability to maintain health is a risk the Blue Jays had to accept when making the right-hander the cornerstone of their stunning 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins.
All-star shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and Johnson are being shipped to Toronto along with former Blue Jays catcher John Buck and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio. In return, the Blue Jays are sending several top prospects to Miami, topped by Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Starting shortstop Yunel Escobar and starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez, 23, were also included in the deal.
In 2007, after dealing with arm issues for most of the season, Johnson underwent Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery in August, returning in 2008 after only 11 months of recovery.
In the following two seasons, he made the all-star team each year and threw a combined 392 2/3 innings, with an ERA of 2.80 and a sterling walks-and-hits-to-innings-pitched ratio of 1.133. He went 15-5 in the first of those seasons and in 2010 led the NL with a 2.30 ERA.
Then he missed most of 2011 with a shoulder injury, and this past season went 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA.
Johnson’s agent, Mark Sosnick, suggested on Wednesday that Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos may yet flip him to another team. The Boston Red Sox also talked to the Marlins about a trade for Reyes and Johnson, though Toronto trumped that deal by taking on more of Miami’s payroll. Red Sox owner John Henry said he had no idea “the whole team was available,” according to reports.
The Jays refrained from comment, as physical examinations and approval from commissioner Bud Selig must be secured before it can become official.
One Boston.com staffer wrote, “Take that, John Farrell. You wanted Boston. The Jays, it turns out, wanted players.”
On paper, the trade has filled Toronto’s biggest need heading into the off-season – solidifying a suspect starting rotation that this past year was ravaged by both injury and sub-par performances by the likes of Ricky Romero. The starting rotation ranked 25th of 30 major-league teams with a 4.82 ERA.
“Whatcha think Toronto?!,” Romero tweeted. “I’m still waiting for those ‘It’s official’ words. But I am beyond excited for the city, fans and the team.”
In Buehrle, the Blue Jays get a 33-year-old left-hander whose precise pitching mechanics have enabled him to log 200 or more innings, at least 30 starts, and a minimum 10 wins in 12 consecutive seasons. In the last 30 years, only Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves has been able to match that feat, accomplishing it over 14 straight seasons according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Buehrle needs seven more seasons to tie Cy Young’s major-league record of 19.
However, the Jays play more than half their games in the American League East, and Buehrle has struggled against the Red Sox (.300 batting average, .453 slugging percentage) and Yankees (.333, .498).
Alan Ashby, the Blue Jays radio colour commentator, said while the moves likely make the Blue Jays a stronger outfit, he’s holding off on announcing any ticker-tape parades for the time being.
“I’m not sure if it puts the Blue Jays in the position of favourite as some people are saying,” Ashby said. “You have to remember these guys, along with Hanley Ramirez, were part of a Marlins team that fell flat on their faces.”