Once a cheap team, always a cheap team.
Matt Sosnick, Johnson’s agent, was reportedly seeking a deal very similar to the four-year, $38 million deal that Zack Greinke signed a year ago.
The notoriously stingy Marlins, however, were only willing to guarantee the 25-year-old right-hander three years.
The proposed deal would have bought out Johnson’s first two years of free agency.
Currently, Johnson remains under club control through two more seasons.
According to Sosnick, this now means that Johnson will enter free agency after 2011 rather than make another attempt at signing an extension.
"Based on our conversations, there's no chance of doing a long-term deal with the Marlins," Sosnick said. "We made it clear that it was going to be this year or it wasn't going to happen. It was now or never."
Johnson, coming off a season in which he posted a 15-5 record with a 3.23 ERA and struck out 191 batters in 209 innings, is one of baseball’s brightest young stars.
He was an All-Star for the first-time and became the unequivocal ace of a young Marlins pitching rotation.
Additionally, Johnson is an outstanding 22-6 with a 3.42 ERA in 47 starts since returning from Tommy John surgery midway through the 2008 campaign.
It seems apparent to everyone—excluding the Marlins, that is—that the deal would have been a steal for Florida.
“We were willing to give the Marlins what we thought was a significant break,” Sosnick said, “but they just weren’t comfortable going to the fourth year."
Although a long-term deal is now off the table, this opens the door for discussions about a potential trade.
Numerous teams figure to show interest if Johnson is made available, as he’d immediately be one of the top pitching options on the market.
Making a trade seem all the more likely is the Marlins' reputation for trading away arbitration-eligible players.
Recently the club traded arbitration-eligible outfielder Jeremy Hermida to Boston.
Last offseason starter Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham were moved to Washington to avoid arbitration.
Recent reports have the club exploring offers for second baseman Dan Uggla, who is expected to earn $7 million or more via arbitration this offseason.
Johnson earned $1.4 million in 2008, and figures to earn more than $4 million next season via arbitration.
"It seems to me that based on his age and performance,” Sosnick said, “Josh falls into that group of two or three starting pitchers out there whose next contracts could very well exceed $100 million."
As it currently stands, Johnson will enter the 2011-2012 free agent class of pitchers that could include Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, Wandy Rodriguez, and Justin Verlander.