- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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Agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com that negotiations between the Marlins and Johnson have reached an "impasse," and Johnson expects to play under a one-year deal in 2010. Johnson will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, and a failure to reach agreement on a multiyear contract would probably force the Marlins to explore a trade before then.
"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. And the Marlins agreed."
Johnson, 25, is regarded as one of Major League Baseball's elite young starters. He posted a 15-5 record with a 3.23 ERA this year, struck out 191 batters in 209 innings and made his first career All-Star team.
Johnson and his agents used Zack Greinke's four-year, $38 million contract with the Kansas City Royals as a framework in contract discussions. Sosnick said talks broke down when the Marlins declined to offer more than a three-year deal -- which would buy out only one year of free agency for Johnson. Sosnick declined to discuss any differences over money in negotiations.
"Josh made it clear that his first choice was to sign a deal and stay with the Marlins," Sosnick said. "He loves the Marlins and he loves Florida. We were willing to give the Marlins what we thought was a significant break, but they just weren't comfortable going to the fourth year."
Florida general manager Michael Hill declined to address the status of talks Friday.
"Josh is our player, he's under [contractual] control, and we like him a lot," Hill said. "But we don't comment on any of our contract negotiations publicly."
The Marlins recently traded arbitration-eligible outfielder Jeremy Hermida to Boston and have reportedly been exploring trades for second baseman Dan Uggla -- ostensibly to help free up space in the payroll for a long-term deal for Johnson.
Johnson has a 22-6 record since returning from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in July of 2008. According to FanGraphs, he ranked third among MLB starters in average fastball velocity at 95.1 mph in 2009. Only Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez and Detroit's Justin Verlander registered higher on the radar gun.
Johnson, who earned $1.4 million in 2008, is likely to make more than $4 million as a salary arbitration-eligible player next season. If he returns on a one-year deal in 2010, he will have five-plus years of service time next November.
"It seems to me that based on his age and performance, Josh falls into that group of two or three starting pitchers out there whose next contract could very well exceed $100 million," Sosnick said.
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider.