Ask Gary: Does Johnson have a future with Bolts?

by Gary Shelton on June 9, 2018 · 4 comments

in Basketball, general, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Now that the hockey playoffs are finally over let’s play fantasy GM. It would seem as though the Lighting needs to tweak their roster as we talked before to add some bigger forwards and improve their defense. One of the biggest decisions Steve Yzerman must make is what to do with Tyler Johnson who has a no-trade clause that kicks in on 7/1. He doesn’t match up well with the bigger forwards on the better teams and also has a big contract. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov are more valuable and will need to get paid either this off season or next so it would appear someone will have to go. When he signed Johnson to that big contract last year, Yzerman  wanted to keep the core players together but can he really do that with all of them? And is that really the best strategy anyway after seeing the Lightning lose again to a bigger, stronger team in the conference finals? How do you see this playing out?

Larry Beller

I think you're  onto the Johnson situation, Larry. One of the problems with sports is that good players get to a level where they're paid like their great ones. Tyler Johnson, sadly, has reached that level.

I like Johnson. He's got a nice perspective, and he seems like a good guy. But you can't go through life paying 21-goal scorers like they're 31-goal scorers.

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Close your eyes and see if you can remember the Lightning scoring a goal. It's been a while, right? Now, even with Kucherov and Stamkos slumping, who do you think the scorer would be? Brayden Point, maybe? Ondrej Palat? Alex Killorn?

Odds are, you didn't think it would be Johnson. Now, I know that Jon Cooper loves Tyler, and again, he's a good soldier. But he doesn't have the size to help you enough other ways on the ice.

One of the things about improving one's team is making hard choices. No one is saying Tyler Johnson isn't a good player. But is he good enough for a team that needs an extra push to win the Cup? Probably not.

All of that said, I'd be sorry to see Johnson go. He's had a lot of good moments.

But if this team is going to get better ones, it needs to tweak this roster. Johnson's contract, and his injury history, make him a candidate.

As the chart below shows, the 27 MLB starting pitchers who currently have contracts of $50 million or more are on track to have a composite average season of 9 wins/9 losses, 150 innings pitched, and an ERA of 3.98.  MLB average ERA for starting pitchers is currently 4.16.  The average 2018 salary to produce this mediocre performance is $21.3 million.

 Meanwhile, Blake Snell of the Rays, who will earn $558,200 this season, is on track to go 19-8 with 203 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.36.  Blake will not be a free agent until 2023.
 
What do you think the likelihood is that one of the rich and 'in the race' teams will offer $20 million or so for Blake Snell by the trading deadline?
 
 
27 starting pitchers with $50 million or greater contracts 2018 salary TOTAL contract contract years 2018 wins 2018 losses games innings pitched ERA
composite averages $21,280,115 $120,366,667 5.52 3.44 3.26 10.22 56.80 3.98
full season extrapolated       9.16 8.67 27.19 151.09 3.98
MLB average for starters               4.16
                 
Blake Snell $558,200     7 3 13 76.33 2.36
        18.62 7.98 34.58 203.04 2.36
 
Scott Myers
Are you kidding. Big-market teams think that losing makes you stupid, so I'm sure the Rays gets a dozen calls again from team's offering their 11th best prospect for Snell.
It won't happen. Snell is the ideal player for the Rays. He's cheap, and he's good. Therefore, he's untouchable, and will be for a long time.
Speaking of Snell, have you considered how hard a time he would have had breaking in with this "opener" silliness? He might never have had a chance to start his own game.
Once again, Scott, you've entertained me with your work on bad contracts. A lot of teams are throwing are a lot of money away. They could make my whole neighborhood millionaires if they wanted.
Have you ever considered a chart of the big-money guys who have worked out? I mean, if there are so many rotten contracts, surely there must be a few good ones to fool the other teams. Right?
Another question: How much do 90-win teams pay for the extra 15 or so wins they collect each year? Just wondering.
The Rays' baseball model is based on pitching and defense (I think). Yet, their system is having an epidemic of "farewell to arms" this season and I wonder if their model is unrealistic in terms of developing/acquiring frontline pitchers. It's obvious that nowadays, young pitchers are throwing too many innings, too many curveballs, and other overuse habits starting in Little League. Control of pitch counts is great except the damage is done much earlier. Is it wise for the Rays, or any team, to invest heavily in developing starting pitchers--does it cost that much less to develop, say one pitcher vs. two position players? I'd love to see an analysis of longevity by player position along with salary costs for each player.
 
Barry McDowell
Barry, when the Rays had their little run under Joe Madden, one of the first things they did was to invest in pitching. I mean, they flooded the minor leagues with arms.
There are a couple of reasons. One, pitchers can have an impact on a game at a very young age. Two, power hitters are the most expensive thing to buy in baseball.
The Rays plan was to win a lot of games with two or three runs. They scratched for runs until their bats bled. And even in the playoff years, the Rays didn't hit very well. But they made up for it on the mound.
That's still the grand plan. Yes, there is a risk to pitchers. They get hurt. (In the old days, it seems like Shields, Price and Garza rarely missed starts). But no one impacts a game like a pitcher. The Rays will never be able to afford enough thumpers to win games the way, say, the Yankees win them.
The end result is that there are a lot of nights when the hitters just can't measure up to the opposing pitcher. There have been a lot of those nights lately. I suspect there will be more.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Kinning June 15, 2018 at 9:08 am

Tyler Johnson can be moved without affecting this team much. We are deep in forwards and the trade value can restock the farm team after NYR took our best prospects this year, in a trade that did not work out for the Bolts. In order for that trade to work for the Lightning they would have had to win the cup. We did not, and the trade was not worth it. The top line was more potent with Namestikof on the line than with Miller.

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Gary Shelton June 15, 2018 at 11:04 pm

You think? I liked Miller. I thought Namestnikoff was having a decent season, but I don’t know if he can repeat it. I guess that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla, right?

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Larry Beller June 9, 2018 at 5:55 am

Will it be a sad day if Tyler Johnson is traded? Absolutely. He’s been a very good player, a fan favorite and has had some big goals in the playoffs in the past (but not recently). His recent body of work demonstrates he isn’t able to sustain his past glory and like you said, his big contract has over reached his ability. A trade needs to happen.

But the big question is will Yzerman pull the trigger? I have no clue on that one. We don’t know what the market might be for him and it just could be Yzerman will decide that they can find a way to keep the core in tact for at least 1 more year. I hope there is another plan.

This off season could be the most critical year of Yzerman’s tenure here. Does he remake the team by adding size and grit in an attempt to get them over the hump or does he stick with the current core and philosophy of speed over bulk, finesse over toughness? He’s built a team in his image and they have done well but with no Stanley Cups. Have they reached their peak as currently constructed is another big question. Let the off season begin!

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Gary Shelton June 9, 2018 at 10:28 pm

Yzerman has shown he’ll make a tough decision. I think he’ll move an undersized forward, but we’ll see. Right?

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