JJ rumors heat up, Rangers most aggressive

MIAMI — Set the odds once again at 50/50 that Josh Johnson will be moved by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

A source on Friday said if the Marlins are offered the right pieces, “he will go.”

Showing how fluid trade speculation can be, by Friday night, the Rangers now are the team most aggressively pursuing Johnson. The Angels had made some calls, but on Friday night, they reportedly have a deal with Milwaukee for Zack Greinke.

The Marlins are not necessarily eager to part with their 28-year-old ace. But for a high price of big league ready talent, they would be willing to make a deal.

The Marlins are looking for the kind of return the Padres got when they sent Mat Latos to the Reds last December. San Diego received Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal.

Texas has had interest in Johnson for years. In 2010, when the Marlins dealt Jorge Cantu to the Rangers, they asked then about Johnson.

If a big haul isn’t worked out, Miami is perfectly content keeping Johnson at the front of its rotation for the remainder of his contract. His deal runs through 2013.

Whether Johnson will stay or go has been widely speculated for days. About 25 scouts were on hand for his last start, when he beat the Braves on Monday.

It might have been Johnson’s most dominating performance of the season, nine strikeouts in six shutout innings. He was lifted after six innings due to a cut near the nail of his right middle finger.

The trade climate surrounding Johnson changes, seemingly on a day to day basis.

On Wednesday, after Miami dealt Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers, there were strong indications that Johnson would stay in Miami.

He still may.

But other teams maintain interest.

The Marlins are looking for a hefty package in return. If it’s not presented, then Johnson will surely remain with the Marlins, where he is signed for $13.75 million in ’13.

So the Marlins have some leverage with the right-hander.

There is a health concern with Johnson, who missed most of last year due to right shoulder inflammation. But the two-time All-Star has made 20 starts, and he has thrown 119 2/3 innings to go along with a 6-7 record and 4.14 ERA.

His velocity has been more in the 93-94 mph range than the 96-97 heater he was throwing in 2011 before being shut down.

While he has been healthy the whole season, he’s also been rusty at times. That is understandable due to all the missed time.

Being healthy is one step. Regaining sharpness is another.

If his start against the Braves is an indication, then Johnson may be progressing to the elite status he held before being hurt.

His curveball baffled the Atlanta hitters that day, and his slider was sharp.

With everything working, Johnson allowed one hit and no walks to go along with his nine strikeouts in six innings.

Johnson’s next scheduled to start on Sunday in the series finale with the Padres at Marlins Park.

The rumors surrounding him promise to remain until the deadline passes.

Joe Frisaro

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