While some believe the Blue Jays simply are trying to drive up Johnson’s price, others can see the rationale in general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ steadfast stance on keeping Johnson despite an 11½-game deficit in the East and an 8½-game hole behind four teams in the wild-card race.
After giving up a significant haul to acquire the 29-year-old Johnson and four others in a salary-dump deal with the Miami Marlins, the Blue Jays want to extract as much value as possible from the pending free agent. Johnson allowed seven runs in his last start, the third time in four outings he yielded five or more runs, and he is 1-5 with a 5.16 ERA.
With his trade value limited and his two starts before the July 31 trade deadline unlikely to change it, one AL general manager said the Blue Jays have considered holding onto Johnson and offering him a free-agent compensation tender this offseason. If Johnson accepts it, he would receive a one-year deal for around $15 million, a hefty sum for a pitcher who has struggled but has a significant ceiling.
Considering the thin free-agent pitching class, Johnson could opt to test the market, though a strong multiyear offer is unlikely because of his history of arm trouble as well as the potential draft-pick loss if the Blue Jays do tender him.
Johnson is in the final year of a four-year, $39 million contract. Following a nearly $40 million increase in payroll, the Blue Jays went into the All-Star break at 45-49.
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