But Johnson injured his left (throwing) shoulder on July 5 against Houston in what proved to be his 17th and final start of the season. He recovered in time to make five relief appearances in September, but the 303-game winner clearly felt uncomfortable with the role. He finished 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 96 innings.
Toward the end of last season, Johnson remained noncommittal about returning in 2010, though he plainly stated that he would want to resume starting if he were to play.
Johnson became the last of seven eligible Giants to file for free agency. As for a handful of the others, general manager Brian Sabean indicated that San Francisco's free agents whom the club might be interested in keeping -- catcher Bengie Molina, right-hander Brad Penny and infielder Juan Uribe -- are virtually certain to hit the market Friday, when open bidding on free agents begins. The Giants still can sign them after that date.
Until 9 p.m. PT Thursday, the Giants retain the right to negotiate exclusively with their free agents. This group includes infielder Rich Aurilia, right-hander Bob Howry and outfielder Randy Winn, none of whom is likely to stay with San Francisco.
With prospect Buster Posey perceived to be ready to reach the Majors sometime next season, if not by Opening Day, the Giants are unwilling to offer Molina anything longer than a one-year contract.
"I don't know that Bengie's interested in something like that or [whether] it's even fair to Bengie," admitted Sabean, who anticipated that Molina will receive a multiyear contract offer. The Giants are expected to offer salary arbitration to Molina on Dec. 1, which would entitle them to Draft-choice compensation if he signs elsewhere.
Sabean called Penny's salary demands "out of reach at this point." Penny received a one-year, $5 million contract from Boston before last season after his three-year, $25.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers expired.
Sabean said that Uribe hopes to receive a two-year contract averaging close to what he earned with the Chicago White Sox from 2004-08. Uribe played for three years at $9.75 million from 2005-07 before coaxing a one-year, $4.5 million deal in 2008.
"We're not prepared to go there," Sabean said.
Sabean said that he envisions the Giants filling their personnel needs through free agency rather than trades. This would seem to defuse rumors of the Giants' interest in non-free agents such as Florida second baseman Dan Uggla or Washington outfielder Josh Willingham.
Having assembled one of the Majors' top pitching staffs and having already traded pitching prospects Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes, Sabean sounded reluctant to part with other talented performers, explaining his distaste for trades.
"We're not close to anything and I don't know that we will be. Because the names that are being talked about that teams would need in return, we're not going to move," Sabean said. "... We're bound and determined not to weaken ourselves, whether it's specifically with our pitching or more so with our up-and-coming definite prospects."
This means that the Giants will search for free agents who can upgrade their hitting.
"They made it pretty clear when we talked that their focus is getting some offense," said a player agent who has spoken recently with Giants officials.