The rumors yesterday had free agent starter Josh Johnson telling the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres that he preferred to sign with them, and had the Giants as the favorite. But late last night, Johnson reportedly agreed to terms with the Padres on a one-year, $8 million deal, which includes up to $1.25 million in incentives if he starts 26 games, and a $4 million club option for 2015 if he starts fewer than 7 games.
The Cubs were briefly connected to Johnson, which made sense given that everyone knew he would sign this kind of low-risk, short-term contract. Johnson is coming off of a terrible year in Toronto, which ended with elbow surgery (bone spurs), and he is clearly looking to rebuild his value. For him, that meant a deal in a pitcher-friendly park like San Diego, which is also close to his home in Las Vegas. To the extent the Cubs were interested, they may not have ever had a real chance.
With the Padres, Johnson gets the additional benefit of possibly being dealt midseason, untying him to draft pick compensation after 2014 if he pitches well enough to earn a big-time contract. The Padres have a number of young arms, some of whom are coming back from surgery, and could be ready to emerge by midseason even if the Padres are surprisingly competitive.
It’s a good deal for both sides, and one that makes a great deal of sense for both sides.
The Cubs remain in the market for at least one starting pitcher, though – outside of Masahiro Tanaka – it remains unclear if they’ll go for an Ubaldo Jimenez type or a Scott Baker type. For me, Phil Hughes still makes a whole lot of sense (and he has likely lost two presumably preferred pillow contract spots in San Francisco and San Diego) on a short-term deal. If the Cubs don’t deal any pitchers this offseason, they figure to go into 2014 with a front four of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta, with Chris Rusin or Carlos Villanueva the presumed fifth starter if no one is added.