The Miami Marlins made two trades earlier this week, but despite the rumors of starting pitcher Josh Johnson being on the market, the Fish are apparently setting that market so high that it is unimaginable that a team will successfully acquire Johnson. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the Marlins are looking for a "Mark Teixeira-like" trade return for the fireballing right-hander (H/T MLB Daily Dish)
The selling Marlins are seeking a "Teixeira-like" package for top young starter Josh Johnson, so unless the requests are lowered there is no guarantee he'll join Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez as ex-Marlins.
This report has been mirrored by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, who Tweeted that the Marlins are asking for a lot and have plenty of leverage on potential acquiring teams.
Lots of debate in front offices over the availability of Josh Johnson. I think #Marlins would move him, but price is extremely high.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2012
"They want a ton,'' said one GM. Johnson is signed for $13.75M next year, so that gives #Marlins a lot of leverage.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2012
We're talking Jurickson Profar-Travis D'Arnaud types just to get talks moving, then a lot more beyond that. #marlins— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2012
That is a hefty request by the Marlins, especially given that Johnson is being paid a fair amount in his final season in 2013. Yes, Johnson holds significant trade value, especially if you think that he will pitch an entire season as he is on track to do in 2012. But the injury risk is significant, and you have to figure teams are at least wary of providing a top-notch return for an injury-prone starter.
Before, we figured Johnson was worth close to $16 million to $20 million in trade value, depending on the premium an acquiring team places for elite starters. That is good enough for a top 50 pitching prospect and change and is close to being worth a top 25 hitter. But the Marlins are asking for a lot more when you consider what Teixeira once netted the Texas Rangers in the 2007 trade that sent back Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones to Texas.
The Old Trade
Mark Teixeira was owed $9 million going in 2007, and by the time he was traded, he had maybe $5 million remaining in his deal. He had one final year of arbitration remaining, and he earned an understandable $12.5 million in salary. Let's presume the Braves had an idea of Teixeira's salaries going forward. A reasonable expectations for the remainder of Teixeira's 2007 season was 1.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Similarly, a reasonable expectations for his 2008 season was around 5.0 WAR, giving a total of 6.7 wins in that one-plus season. If those were the expectations and wins were worth $4.5 million in the free agent market, then Teixeira's trade value was at around $13 million.
In contrast, the prospects the Rangers got in return held a lot of value. Heading into 2007, Saltalamacchia, Andrus and Harrison were the Braves' three best prospects, in order, according to Baseball America. In addition, those players were each in the top 100 of all prospects according to Baseball America (Saltalamacchia was 18th, Andrus 61st, and Harrison 90th). If we use the prospect table from Victor Wang's research, we can add up the value of these players and see that they would be worth $49 million and change. Even if you downgrade that slightly to match the old value of a win, Teixeira's value wasn't even close to that of three top prospects.
What About Johnson?
Johnson has more value now than Teixeira did in 2007, but he too is not likely worth three top prospects out of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list. Still, the Marlins want that kind of deal, but what teams even have those type of players?Let us start first with the teams most interested in Johnson, the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers have an extremely deep minor league system, so they have the number of players to make a return like that happen. Already the Marlins have discussed third baseman Mike Olt as part of a package, and he matches a similar value to Saltalamacchia in the Teixeira deal. You have to suspect that top prospect Jurickson Profar is out of any trades, as he was ranked seventh in the top 100 and is a shortstop that the Marlins do not currently need (though they could accommodate him). So a trade like the Teixeira deal with the Rangers would likely include Olt, pitcher Martin Perez, and outfielder Leonys Martin.
This would be a difficult sell to the Rangers, but it would be an amazing return for one season of Johnson, and it would fill two holes in the outfield and third base. Both Martin and Olt are major-league ready as well, so the Fish would fill some major needs immediately.
The Blue Jays have four players who entered the 2012 season in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list, and two of them are currently in Triple-A. Beyond that, one of them fills a direct need at catcher, as Travis D'Arnaud is currently destroying the Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .333/.380/.595 slash line while being a decent receiver behind the plate. Even if the Marlins could not pry D'Arnaud (ranked 17th in the Top 100 before the season) they could get the current Toronto incumbent J.P. Arencibia, who is not nearly as well-considered but is more than serviceable at the plate. Anthony Gose is not likely the player Leonys Martin currently is, but he was ranked 37th in the top 100 and he would plug in a center field hole with another season in Triple-A. The third prospect would likely be Jake Marisnick, who had an excellent season in Single-A last year but is struggling through two levels this season at 21 years old.
The Los Angeles Angels and Baltimore Orioles have also inquired about Johnson's availability, but those teams do not have enough prospects that they would be willing to trade unless they go crazy. The Angels' system without MVP candidate Mike Trout is dry on elite players, while the same could be said for Baltimore's organization without the inclusion of uber-prospects Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado. Unless those teams are willing to part with those kind of players, I doubt the Marlins would be interested.
Price Is High For a Reason
The price is high on Josh Johnson for a reason, and that reason is exactly what I alluded to a few days ago. If the Marlins want to compete in 2013, they would have to be overwhelmed to trade Josh Johnson, enough so that the benefit of having him for the 2013 potential run is equaled or better by the boon of having all those prospects. Texas's Teixeira deal reinvigorated their roster and helped create a monster in the AL West. Unless the Marlins get something similar, they'll take their chances with the ace they know, even if their demands are absurd.