As the Pittsburgh Pirates tread through the offseason, one thing is almost a given and that is the fact that general manager Neal Huntington will look to add a starting pitcher or two to the 2014 roster.
Early on it looks like Josh Johnson could be sitting at the top of their wish list.
Johnson’s agent Matt Sosnick tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his client has narrowed his decision down to three or four teams, and the Pirates are among the finalists.
Sawchik also notes that Johnson could make his decision rather quickly.
When he is healthy the 30-year-old is one of the game’s most talented arms but has only topped 200 innings in a season once. In fact, because of injuries Johnson has only thrown more than 100 innings four times in a major league season.
His 2013 campaign was no exception. Johnson pitched through tendonitis in his knee all season and also hit the disabled list due to a forearm strain and triceps inflammation this season before undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow in early October.
However, he is also the kind of pitcher Huntington has had success targeting in the past.
Huntington likes to buy low on talented pitchers with upside coming off down seasons. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon are all recent examples of guys who Huntington got for next to nothing, only to see them blossom in a Pirates uniform.
The Pirates make sense for a guy like Johnson who is looking to rebuild his value, as he is likely looking at signing a one-year deal.
Johnson posted a bloated 6.20 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 81 1/3 innings last season in Toronto, but most sabermetric stats would suggest he was the victim of bad luck.
It is worth noting that Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Johnson reached out to the Padres and Giants early in the offseason to inform the teams that they were his first choice. Now that the Giants have signed Tim Hudson, they are likely no longer a suitor.
Personally I feel Johnson would be worth a strong look by the Bucs. He’s due for some luck in terms of health and even if the Bucs could only get him for one year, he is the kind of arm that could turn out to be a difference maker.