Late in the 2013 season, executive vice president Dan Duquette attempted to end the speculation over Jim Johnson's status by telling reporters that the Orioles would tender him a contract over the winter. In addition, Johnson would remain the closer despite nine blown saves and the hefty raise awaiting him.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected again today that Johnson's salary could increase from $6.5 million to $10.8 million.
As a Super 2, Johnson is arbitration-eligible for a fourth time. He can become a free agent following the 2014 season.
Last winter, Johnson's agent submitted a salary proposal of $7.1 million and the Orioles countered at $5.7 million. The two sides avoided a hearing by agreeing to $6.5 million, another nice bump after Johnson earned $2.625 million during the 2012 season.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Johnson set the record for a closer with his service time during his third year of arbitration by pocketing a $3.875 million raise.
Johnson led the American League with 50 saves this year, giving him 101 over the past two seasons, but the nine blown saves stood out for a team that fell short of a return trip to the playoffs.
So here we are again, debating whether the Orioles should sink that much money into a closer as they continue their pursuit of outfielder Carlos Beltran and a starting pitcher. And as they face negotiations with catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis on contract extensions, as well as the pending free agency of shortstop J.J. Hardy.
They could go in many directions. There's been lots of trade speculation involving Wieters and Hardy. If you missed it, you did more than blink. You went all Rip Van Winkle on us.
Should the Orioles keep Johnson in the closer's role at any cost? Should they non-tender him or explore a trade?
How about making him a starter, his preferred role? He has three plus pitches, and the salary wouldn't seem as extreme if it's going to a member of the rotation.
Of course, the Orioles would still be in the market for a 200-inning guy. Don't think you could hang that label on Johnson, who's made one major league start back in 2006.
How would that move reshape the projected rotation, which for now includes Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris?