There's still no word on just how seriously the Red Sox are looking into acquiring starting pitcher Josh Johnson, but a scenario popped up in Monday night's contest that they will likely keep tabs on. Johnson exited his start against the Atlanta Braves after six innings with a cut on the middle finger of his throwing hand, but if the cut had been there earlier in the game, no one would have known by his performance.
Johnson struck out nine Braves, threw just 87 pitches, allowed just one baserunner total, and held Atlanta scoreless. It was one of his top outings of the season -- his best if you use Gamescore as your measurement -- enough so that it lowered his ERA on the season from 4.35 to 4.14. That's not quite where we expect Johnson, who is considered one of the NL's premiere starters, to be, but it did inch him closer to his much more Johnsonesque 2.98 fielding-independent pitching (FIP).
Boston has made a habit as of late of acquiring pieces that are also under contract for the future, and the 28-year-old Johnson would be one such piece. He's under contract for the 2013 season, for $13.75 million, and barring injury would likely net the Red Sox a first-round compensation pic should he depart after that. While Johnson does have an injury history, the 2013 Red Sox already have some starting pitching depth in place, between the return of John Lackey from Tommy John surgery, and Franklin Morales -- they could shoulder the blow were something to go wrong, and Johnson's ceiling is such that he's worth that risk.
Of course, it all comes down to price. If the Marlins are looking for Xander Bogaerts or any of the first-round selections from the 2011 draft, it's easy to see Boston balking, especially given the amount of money they'd be taking back, from a team notorious for dumping that very thing. But if they would accept the more second-tier types, what Kevin Goldstein would consider the Red Sox' three-star prospects -- Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs, etc. -- then the Marlins surely have Boston's ear for a player that's more than a rental.