A few more thoughts on Johnson trade

Jim Johnson flew into San Diego late last night with the intention of working out with Orioles executive Brady Anderson. He had no idea that he would be traded to a West Coast team.

Talk about a strange coincidence.

Johnson was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Jemile Weeks and a PTBNL, the announcement coming at the midnight deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It had to be a shock to his system.

Johnson said he was still digesting the news. I understood how he felt.

A few people in baseball are convinced that the A's will flip Johnson to another team rather than pay him $10-$11 million in arbitration. After all, doesn't this type of contract for a closer go against their Moneyball philosophy?

We'll see.

Either way, it's going to be an adjustment for Johnson. The Orioles drafted him in 2001. He owns a home in Sarasota, where they train each spring. He was the player rep and a popular figure in the clubhouse.

He wasn't looking for a change of scenery.

There are plenty of folks in the industry who believe the Orioles could have gotten more for Johnson. However, his salary and pending free agency after the 2014 season had to narrow the field of interested teams and reduce his value.

Given Weeks' decline since his rookie season, that's quite a reduction.

I assumed that the Orioles would get an everyday player for Johnson, and I'm not sure whether Weeks fits that description. But other people figured they would have to settle for a prospect.

I'm not sure whether Weeks fits that description, either.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette didn't confirm whether the Orioles will go outside the organization for another closer, but that's my impression. Tommy Hunter would be the leading in-house candidate, but there are concerns about his splits.

Left-handers batted .294 against Hunter and accounted for all 11 home runs that he surrendered.

Doesn't mean he can't close. It's just something that officials have focused on while considering the alternatives.

Johnson drew the ire of fans this season with his nine blown saves, including two in back-to-back games in Arizona that really left a mark. But he led the majors with 101 saves over the past two seasons. He was a heck of a lot better than other closers I've covered on this beat.

With his salary off the books, it's up to the Orioles to make a bold move. They have the additional payroll flexibility and a bunch of needs, with "closer" now added to the list. And Weeks isn't a definite answer to any of them.

He's not a starting pitcher. He's not a starting left fielder. He isn't acceptable as a designated hitter. And he isn't being handed the second base job at this point.

Duquette told me that he's got "some more work to do to staff our team for 2014." The Winter Meetings are less than a week away. They need to be busy.

The Orioles now have three openings on the 40-man roster after removing outfielder Jason Pridie and knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa. I'd expect a Rule 5 pick to fill one of them.

Maybe Duquette is close to making another deal or signing a free agent, since he already decided to non-tender Pridie and Gamboa. The timing is interesting, to say the least.

It's also interesting that "non-tender" is the correct term. I thought that only applied to arbitration-eligible players, but it worked here, too. Just means the Orioles didn't offer them contracts.

Gamboa must have his own digesting to do. One minute, he's on the 40-man roster for the first time in his professional life. The next, he's a free agent.

At least he didn't fly to the West Coast. He's still in Mexico.


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