COMMENTARY | On paper the Toronto Blue Jays assembled a cast of All-Stars for their starting pitching rotation heading into 2013.
Only Brandon Morrow returns from a year ago and that raises the question of which new pitcher will make the biggest impact this season?
Two words and one name provides the answer. Contract year and Josh Johnson.
Take any number of athletes in a variety of sports and what is a common theme? When it is time to negotiate a new deal they play their best.
For small market clubs this is typically bad news because an expected large payday is right around the corner. However, for a team that is looking to contend immediately it can be an ideal situation.
Enter the Blue Jays, who have a tremendous chance to capture lightening in a bottle by owning Johnson's rights for the singular campaign where he must prove himself the most.
It's not as if the right hander is on the back nine of his career either. At 29, the Minneapolis, MN native is finishing up a tidy four-year, $39 million contract. The Blue Jays are responsible for $13.75 million of it.
Spending his previous eight major league seasons with the Miami/Florida Marlins, Johnson posted respectable statistics. Averaging a 3.16 ERA and 93.1 strikeouts each year over that time frame as well as a 56-37 win/loss ratio certainly suggests that he can be a reliable contributor.
An intimidating presence up on the mound at 6'7", this 225-pounder possesses solid command of four pitches: slider; curveball; change-up; and a low-to-mid 90mph fastball.
This variety is important over a gruelling MLB schedule, whereas someone relying mainly on the heater is more likely to have their shoulder wear down. Johnson is a control pitcher that consistently dominates in the strikeouts to walks category. 838-310 in the majors doesn't lie.
Johnson is a two-time All-Star (2009, '10) that led the National League in ERA (2.30) in 2010. The following year saw him start in only nine contests because of right shoulder inflamation. Last season 'double J' proved that his arm was fine by popping out 191.1 innings of work. The second most in his career.
The ERA ballooned to 3.81 with a record of 8-14, however, that was on a struggling Marlins club. Don't let those figures fool you, being in Toronto with a healed shoulder and playing for another big contract mixes together for the perfect cocktail.
If Johnson can once again eat up plenty of innings, stay healthy and continue to rack up Ks, why couldn't he be the top performer in the Jays starting five? Dickey and Buehrle are aging veterans, while Morrow and Happ are traditionally inconsistent.
Dickey may be the ace, but Johnson will be most effective new addition.
Follow Andy McNamara on Twitter @AndyMc81
Andy is a sports journalist and broadcaster with over 8-years experience covering professional, collegiate and minor league sports.
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- Toronto Blue Jays
- Brandon Morrow
- Mark Buehrle