As Josh Johnson reps the Marlins at tonight's MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis, two things are for sure: Marlins
Nation Universe Existence doesn't want to be without him. Ever. And the Fish need to ink a contract extension ASAP to ensure that won't be necessary.
"He's become one of the best in the game," said former Marlin and current Red Sock Josh Beckett, summing up why the 25 year-old right-handed Oklahoman is so beloved in South Florida (where Oklahomans in general aren't much of a hot commodity).
You can be sure that other teams are eagerly awaiting the day they might get their mitts on Johnson, who, albeit quietly, has become one of the best pitchers in the league -- and who, with fellow All-Star Hanley Ramirez, is responsible for the Fish's second place standing in the NL East.
You can also be sure that, with a recent warning that they won't build the payroll until you come, there's no guarantee the David Samson-led Marlins will do anything to prevent it from happening.
The situation doesn't have to get that perilous or reminiscent of All-Star-quality Marlin after All-Star quality Marlin who have been allowed to slip through Florida's hands or traded away for second-rate replacements.
But Samson needs to act now.
See, Johnson is actually content to work outside of the NY-Boston large-market scene. He acknowledges that it would be great for his family to remain in Florida beyond his current contract, which is up in two years. And he's the sort of player championship runs are built around.
But at the point of expiration, like Miguel Cabrera before him, it's certain the budget-minded Marlins will have no chance of affording Johnson. His agent, Matt Sosnick, calls the contract's timing "a perfect storm," and has said he thinks Johnson will be "valued somewhere between [A.J.] Burnett's contract ($82.5 million) and C.C. Sabathia's contract ($161 million)."
Florida could save a lot of money -- and have the thrill of actually spending some -- by signing JJ to a new contract now, buying out one or more years of free agency rather than facing open-market prices down the road. They did so with Ramirez last season, and pitchers in the same situation, like Sabathia, Johan Santana, and Tim Hudson, have done just that in recent years.
Johnson is an especially good candidate for such a deal. He's only 25, and as his agent put it, he's "already been rebuilt once" with Tommy John surgery. "He came back throwing harder," Sosnick said. "I think his chance of injury is greatly diminished."
It's a win-win for both parties, and especially the fans. Johnson would get lifetime financial security, with the possibility of cashing in when the re-up runs out. Florida gets a top-flight starter at a relative discount, and for once those of you who have seen a revolving door where a mound should be could get used to someone great sticking around. We might even buy a jersey with his name on it.
C'mon, Fish brass. Only you can break the cycle.
(And for heaven's sake, throw us a bone.)