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Josh Johnson, Marlins Reach $39 Million Contract Agreement

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MIAMI — Josh Johnson became one of the few Marlins to gain a big-money multiyear contract.

Florida's ace agreed Thursday to a $39 million, four-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Marlins hadn't announced an agreement.

The deal covers Johnson's final two years of salary arbitration eligibility and pushes back his chance to become a free agent by two years.

He gets $3.75 million this year, $7.75 million in 2011 and $13.75 million in each of the following two seasons.

It's the sort of multiyear deal baseball's most frugal franchise has avoided in the past, and it comes only two days after an announcement that the Marlins agreed to increase payroll spending in response to complaints from the players' union.

The only Marlins player with a comparable contract is star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who signed a $70 million, six-year contract in 2008.

Florida had the lowest payroll in the majors three of the past four seasons, including in 2009. The union complained the payroll has been so small as to violate baseball's revenue sharing provisions, a charge the Marlins denied.

The Marlins now have Johnson under contract through 2013, and he becomes the front-runner to start the first game in their new ballpark in 2012. Widely regarded as one of baseball's best young pitchers, he made the All-Star team for the first time last year, when he had a career-best record of 15-5 with an ERA of 3.23 in 209 innings.

"J.J. has been a horse," general manager Larry Beinfest said shortly after last season. "We think he's going to be one of the top pitchers in this league for quite a while."

Johnson is 22-6 since returning in 2008 from elbow ligament replacement surgery. The right-hander went 12-7 as a rookie in 2006 and has a career record of 34-16.

His new contract is comparable to the $38 million, four-year deal an arbitration-eligible Zack Greinke signed with Kansas City a year ago after going 13-10 in 2008.

The next big spending decision for the Marlins is whether to keep slugging second baseman Dan Uggla, who is eligible for arbitration and due a hefty raise.

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