If you watched your fair share of Orioles games in 2013, you saw a good amount of negative outings from the team’s closer, Jim Johnson. Nine blown saves leading to eight total losses, Johnson was a shaky back end option for Buck Showalter, though the Birds skipper stuck with him until the end. Showalter made it apparent in each post game presser, and moreover through his apparent decisions, that he believed in Johnson for the ninth inning role. The job to shut down the opposing team in a save situation was Johnson’s each and every day, even if Showalter has been known to gravitate toward his self-generated notion of the win rule. As Showalter spoke on various occasions in 2012 regarding his selection of a closer, he pressed forward with his plan to win games regardless of the statistical nuances. Thus fans grew concerned throughout 2013, as Johnson proved shaky throughout the month of May, posting a 9.75 ERA amid his limited chances in 13 appearances, allowing three home runs and raising one simple question: who’s next?
We can recall his preposterous series out at Chase Field in Arizona, blowing two saves in a row against a Diamondbacks squad pushing .500 only four days after his last appearance, yet another blown save to the scuffling San Francisco Giants on their home turf. Gravitating back to that disastrous May, Johnson blew three saves in a row during that month as well. Johsnon was the man at fault for losses to the Padres, Rays, and Yankees allowed eight earned runs in just two and a third innings, all at his home ballpark.
With a 2013 salary of $6.5 million, Johnson was becoming tough to maintain control of due to the rising costs of pitching and the available options on the market at lesser prices with similar abilities. With his struggles at the forefront almost weekly in Baltimore, it almost seemed illogical to ever think of Johnson coming back for 2014. And as the season came to a close, it should have been quite obvious.
Arbitration committees and baseball agents alike push the shiny statistics like saves and ERA on ownership. Regardless of his unsteady year, Johnson was set to get a raise. And as MLB Trade Rumors predicted, Johnson was on the hook for a salary in the range of $10-$11 million in 2014. As Matt Swartz pointed out, “Last year, Johnson set the record for a closer with his service time during his third year through the arbitration process, earning a $3.875MM raise on top of his $2.625MM salary.”
Ten percent of the Orioles payroll dedicated to a relief pitcher? Wasn’t the goal to acquire starting pitching and shift the focus to that side of the mound, as the Birds were in the bottom third of baseball in practically all starting pitching statistics in 2013?
Things started shaking up as the season geared down.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette went on record back on September 27, confirming that the Orioles planned to tender a contract to Johnson when the time came to do so.
Where was the logic? Regardless of his numbers, was Johnson legitimately worth the salary of which he was about to command? Joe Nathan is expected to receive in the realm of $13 million per season on the open market currently; is Johnson on the same plane as the likes of Nathan? Is he comparable to Rafael Soriano who received two years and $28 million from the Washington Nationals?
Fast forward to last night, December 2. Rumors swarmed earlier in the day that Johnson was being heavily shopped, with the Dodgers being his primary suitor. In the end, he was sent to the Oakland Athletics. The return for Johnson was second baseman Jemile Weeks.
At midnight, teams reached a deadline to announce whether or not they would be tendering contracts out to their arbitration-eligible players. It could have been a coincidence, but one has to imagine that this move was out of desperation. Duquette had to have been frenzied with Johnson still on the books. And after announcing three months earlier that Johnson would be tendered, he could not easily go back on those words.
Realistically, was Johnson ever going to be tendered? Though there is not much wiggle room in debating whether or not Duquette could have reeled in a more impressive haul for the Johnson City, NY, native, we will never know where negotiations could have gone. Could the Orioles have pried away an outfielder from the Dodgers in a theoretical payroll swap?
Straightforwardly, the Orioles had no interest in bringing back Johnson in 2014 for such a high monetary commitment. Duquette has done a practical job over the past months in covering up his true intentions, and who is to blame him?
So here we are now, with Jemile Weeks coming to Baltimore to compete for the starting job at second base while Johnson will be the closer entering Spring Training with the Athletics. Billy Beane can afford the added payroll out in Oakland, even on top of the $22 million handed over to Scott Kazmir earlier in the day, as the positional lineup for the A’s along with a young pitching core is relatively low cost.
Fluctuating in bullpen roles over the years with the Orioles, Johnson has had a decent career thus far jogging out to the Foo Fighters’ classic, “The Pretender.” It is no secret that Showalter ran Johnson into the ground in recent years after the hurler recorded 91 innings in relief in 2011. Duquette and Baltimore’s front office simply fell victim to the arbitration process and the lasting outcomes that remind us that in the end, baseball is a business.
I’m going to hold off on judging this trade.
When it’s put into context that the closer – NOT NAMED MARIANO RIVERA – was due to earn 10% of the team’s payroll, that’s absurd.
I just hope the team invests that money in some guys who can help them win NOW.
So my question to everyone reading this…what happens when Wieters is on the verge of making too much money for a no hit, all defense catcher? do we trade him for a light hitting first baseman becasue Davis will already have been traded for a light hitting third baseman because machado will have been moved to SS becasue hardy was let go in free agency? So fans, what do we do? get Adam Jones on the line for his opinion….!
How can they invest that money when they are shedding “would be contracts”?
Invest in what? They won’t pay for pitching, they arent going to pay Weiters. Davis will probably get paid. Home runs bring in fans. They will shed Marcakeass next year. Just shed Roberts’s contract, will pay McClouth cheaply, resigned Hurt Neck cheap. You still have faith in Angelos, MGW? How many times do we allow him to kick us in the ass before we turn around and punch him in the mouth I am STEAMED with this trade!
Toronto won the offseason last year, Nails.
That’s all they won.
I’m going to reserve judgement until at least mid-January and see where this goes.
I must admit, Nolasco and Josh Johnson could have been had cheap and that’s disappointing. We’ll see where it goes.
What is baffling, is why didn’t they offer Johnson a 2-3yr contract at 6mm/yr? The guy was a class act. They just thru him away while he was a leader and backbone of the team. He wasn’t looking for the money… the guy was obviously torn up about the trade in the interviews. He has family in Baltimore and does a ton for the community and the fans. It was a bad move in every way.
Unfortunately, this is a business and these players are highly paid commodities who are bought and sold like stocks. If you start taking into count how “nice” somebody is or “how much they did for the community” you end up holding onto a stock too long and the bottom falls out.
Brian Roberts was a “nice guy” who did much for community. Nick Markakis is a “nice guy” who got a fat contract.
While the Orioles should look for quality men, they also must make sense fiscally, as well as on the field. Can’t hold onto guys because they are nice or like it here.
We don’t have to win the off season. All I ask is that we make move to win a championship. As much as I hate the Yankees, they build teams to win it all. Not a guy here or a trade there to be competitive. Steinbrenner always tried to win it all EVERY year. When are we going to try to win it all? We play this game to win! Jim Mora
Aren’t you the guy who “wanted to pay Ray Rice”?
2.8 ypc and one heckuva nice guy who got a dumb contract.
Wait and see what happens. If nothing, then we can chirp. Right now, His game is in the 3rd inning.
Knowing what I know now, the Rice deal looks bad. What about the Flacco deal, Ngata, Webb…you gotta pay somebody…right? The Orioles paid Roberts and Marcakeass and what return did we get….a whole lot of nothing. This deal is a hint to the future. What about when we do this to Wieters? When we lowball Davis? What then? Angelos is scum and Duquette is on an opiate induced binge….
Hell guys, even the Astros got into the act and traded for a Major League player!
Astros traded for 27-year-old Dexter Fowler who hit .263 with 18 doubles, 42 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 119 games last season. Fowler, a switch-hitter who primarily plays center field, hit .300 in 2012.
You don’t think the Orioles could have plugged him into Left Field instead of paying Reimold $1mil to injure himself again?
And Doug Fister wouldn’t have been an upgrade to the Starting pitching staff?
Telling you guys, the trades are there, it’s just that the Orioles are afraid to pull the plug because they don’t want to dole out money.
This front office doesn’t want to put a good product on the field! They are more worried about saving money!
And try talking stupid to me again Ryne cause I’ll rip you again!
Absolutely correct,,,,,MGW said it best “this is a business” above and most businesses want to add to the bottom line (angelos trust fund),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Ravens 2488 is right on , the O’s do not try to win fans over , they forgot how during their fourteen year hiatus from real baseball and are now on the edge of another ‘screw the fans’ run , all you wonderful fans who love contributing to the trust fund must love getting screwed by Peter the Great , me , I’d rather be screwed by something a little prettier…………………….
Prettier Spy? Like 9Inchnails?
If you are finished with him……………
spy- Welcome back to the fray.
Thanks ,,,,,been busy………….
I am kinda cute, if you overlook the spare tire, and the bald head and the crooked eye. Otherwise, yes I am a 10! Well a 9…..9inchnail.
the only bald I like is the wonderful bald eagle,,,,,yea baby , I’m a dirty old man………but I do have my fun………………
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