Add another name to the Seattle Mariners free agent and trade rumor mill. This time it is 27 year old Steve Johnson, a former Baltimore Oriole who was outrighted by the birds back on October 24.
Steve Johnson is a right-handed starting pitcher who spent parts of 2012 and 2013 with the Orioles. Over the course of 54 innings in the major leagues, Johnson tallied a 3.67 ERA with 5 wins, 1 loss, and 66 strikeouts to go with 31 walks.
In 2014 Johnson didn’t touch the Majors for the Orioles. He struggled in Triple-A with a 7.11 ERA over 13 starts. Control was the major issue for Steve Johnson, as he managed only 38 innings over those 13 starts.
Though he struggled in 2014 in the minors, Steve Johnson still has potential in the major leagues. It is possible a sizable bone spur in his throwing shoulder had a lot to do with his lack of control and consistency. The bone spur was removed surgically this offseason.
According to Roch Kubato, both the Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies have shown interest in the rebound-candidate:
Because Steve Johnson is still on a rookie contract, he won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017 and won’t be a free agent until 2020 at the earlier. With some many years still available for team control, Johnson is an intriguing bounce back candidate.
So what would the Mariners want with him? If you’re thinking such a deal is indicative of the Mariners trading one of Taijuan Walker or James Paxton, don’t start freaking out just yet. GM Jack could be testing the waters and getting a feel for player values out on the open market.
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A pitcher like Johnson would provide the Mariners pitching depth, as he would start the year in Triple-A Tacoma, getting his strength and control back on the mound. If the injury and control are persisting issues, the Mariners could drop him from the 40-man roster and lose little by way of money. But, if he finds his command again and gets back to that 3.67 ERA he had over 50+ innings in the majors in 2012 and 2014, he could be a diamond in the rough who could pitch number 4 or 5 in the rotation a few years down the road.
And let’s not forget, the Mariners can always use trade chips, especially considering their position in the AL and the AL West, where they are most certainly going to be competitive in 2015.
Picking up Steve Johnson would by no means be a major move for the Mariners at the Winter Meetings, but it could also pay dividends down the road. The Mariners are aware of the value of depth in baseball, as injuries come out of nowhere and can derail a team that is only 1-deep at every position.
Will the Mariners sign Steve Johnson? Who knows. But it’s only 10:15 am in San Diego on the first day of the meetings, and already the Mariners are being linked to another player.