Again, this was written by Kevin Brown. Not the pitcher.
Few players on this free agent market are as big of enigmas as Josh Johnson. Usually you expect some missed starts and DL stints from him, but when he is on the field he tends to be one of the very best pitchers in the game. That was anything but the case in 2013. Johnson started 16 games, racking up a 6.20 earned run average over those ill fated games. It's really hard to find many positives in Johnson's year. His Strikeouts per 9 was above his career average, and his ground ball rate were fine, but beyond that the year was a statistical disaster. His home run rate ballooned to more than double his career rates, and his FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) was an unkind 4.62. His fastball velocity has been down for two years now, but it is hard to say if that is the reason for this sudden implosion.
This year could just have been him fighting hidden injuries, but it is hard to say. It would take serious guts for any team to give Johnson any more than a one year “prove it” type of contract, which he will likely take, in hopes of rebuilding his value for a multi year pact next year.
Johnson could fit into the Cubs plan on one of those one year deals.
The team could definitely use one or two more proven starters over a pitcher like Jake Arrieta. The question is just how proven is Johnson? He has put up top of the rotation numbers in the past, but the Cubs brass would need to feel very confident, or feel very lucky, in his health to consider him a reliable option for the full year at this point. Should Johnson be met with low interest from the rest of the league the Cubs may want to bite on him though. Should he start the year off well he could be a great trade piece to a contender come the trade deadline, or his re-emergence could be a big factor in a big surprise Cubs wild card run.
Still, the Cubs may chose to try and go with a more consistent, albeit less glamorous starter, along the lines of a Dan Haren, Tim Hudson or Bronson Arroyo. None of those players have close to his potential upside, but are far more likely to produce adequate results than the boom or bust Johnson.