On Monday, it was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman that Johnson's preferred landing spot was the Padres or Giants, given the teams' proximity to his Las Vegas home. San Francisco, however, opted to sign free-agent Tim Hudson, opening up a clearer path to San Diego.
Johnson, 29, is coming off a disappointing season with the Toronto Blue Jays, in which the right-hander posted a 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP, easily the worst marks of his nine-year career. Johnson battled a triceps injury and missed significant time in 2013, making 16 starts while striking out 83 and walking 30 in 81 1/3 innings before undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow.
Prior to his down year in Toronto, Johnson spent eight seasons with the Marlins, posting a 56-37 record while recording a 3.15 ERA and 1.23 WHIP across 144 starts. In 998 career innings, Johnson has struck out 915 batters, or 9.18 strikeouts per nine innings.
Since winning the National League pitching title in 2010, Johnson has battled injuries and inconsistency, missing the majority of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury. He bounced back with a full season in 2012, making 31 starts and posting a 3.81 ERA. His K/9 rate, however, dropped significantly, as Johnson struck out 165 in 191 1/3 innings.
The move to the NL and San Diego is the perfect fantasy landing spot for Johnson, whose advanced pitching metrics in 2013 -- a 4.62 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP -- suggest he wasn't as bad as a 6.20 ERA. (He also had a career-worst .356 BABIP.) Moving from the Rogers Centre in Toronto to Petco Park in San Diego should ease some of the home run troubles Johnson encountered in 2013. In 81-plus innings, Johnson allowed 15 home runs and posted his worst HR/FB rate in his career (18.5 percent). Last season, Toronto's ballpark allowed the third most home runs, according to ESPN Park Factors, while San Diego allowed the 17th most.
At best, Johnson can re-discover a bit of his All-Star past and re-build his value as a premiere starter in the NL. But realistically, Johnson becomes an interesting sleeper candidate and a terrific streaming opportunity in a favorable pitching environment. Johnson's rebounding strikeout rate should comfort owners who take a chance on Johnson becoming much better in 2014, but keep in mind that opposing batters pummeled him last season to the tune of a .299 BA. I'd take a chance on Johnson as a low-end No. 4 starter, with a potential return on investment as a No. 2. But, again, I think that's a long shot.
More from Fake Teams:
- The Top 5 National League Fantasy Pitching Prospect Rankings
- Prospect Man to Man: Carlos Correa vs George Springer
- Fantasy Football: Week 12 Waiver Wire and More
- Tim Hudson: San Francisco Giant
- Fantasy Top 5 - The Texas Rangers
- Fantasy Baseball 2014: Early Outfielder Rankings 31 - 60
- Fantasy Basketball: Waiver Adds