One of the perceived tasks for the Royals this offseason was to upgrade their starting rotation. Ervin Santana was likely to depart via free agency, and for as well as Bruce Chen performed last season, he is still not much more than a fifth starter should he return. Given the Royals potential payroll limitations, it seemed likely that they may attempt to patch the rotation with a possible reclamation project, such as Josh Johnson.
That interest in Johnson appears to be heating up. Buster Olney reported via Twitter that the Royals are attempting to work out a contract with the oft-injured righty, possibly bringing him in on a one year deal.
The Royals want to work something out with Josh Johnson. He’s a good fit financially (one-year deal), possible high reward, good team guy.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 13, 2013
As Hunter detailed earlier this month, Johnson has certainly been an excellent starter when healthy, posting a 3.40 ERA and over eight strikeouts per nine innings in his career. Johnson has been a two time All-Star, even winning the National League ERA title in 2010. However, the problem is that Johnson is rarely ever healthy. In his nine year career, he has pitched over 180 innings only three times, making more than thirty starts only twice. Clearly, Johnson is not the type of pitcher that a team would likely be able to count on to go out and perform every fifth day, making turn after turn in their rotation.
However, getting Johnson on a one year deal with a team option for a second season could be a reasonable gamble. Giving Johnson a one year deal, even if it approaches $10million, could prove to be a solid investment. Should the Royals manage to get one of the rare healthy seasons from Johnson, he would provide a more than capable replacement for Santana, at a significantly lower cost. If Johnson gets hurt, then the Royals move on the following year without much of an investment.
Josh Johnson may be the ultimate risk/reward pitcher on the market. Yet, if he puts together one of his healthy seasons, the gamble could pay off beyond even what the Royals could reasonably hope for.