O’s made right call on Jim Johnson

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Friday he plans to tender a 2014 contract to closer Jim Johnson, who has 99 saves over the last two seasons.

He made the right move.

Johnson is arbitration-eligible again and if the Orioles elected not to offer him arbitration - and “non-tender” him - he would become a free agent.

At that point, any team could sign Johnson at any price and his critics should know that a lot of teams likely would have come calling. Maybe even a few in the AL East.

Johnson was one of the game’s top closers in 2012. He was not as good this year, but he remains one of the best arms on the Orioles and he is throwing the ball very well late in the year.

He has had his blowups this year and they have been big costly ones at times. But the Orioles could not afford a non-tender scenario and risk Johnson possibly leaving.

By retaining him, they also have other options. They could consider trading him or they could consider using him in another role.

They could still non-tender him. Teams have been known to change their minds over the years and until they do it, they haven’t done it (sign him for 2014).

Blown saves and letting late-inning leads get away are costly to any club. They are devastating losses when you lead most of the way or can’t hold the lead with three outs to go.

Johnson has struggled this year in recording saves when he comes in with a one-run lead. But he had just three blown saves last year. This season, he has nine. He needs to at least split the difference and cut that down to five or so over a full season in 2014.

Johnson stands to get a raise through arbitration. It comes down to this for me. For a few million dollars, the Orioles could not afford to let Johnson possibly walk away.

Duquette was proactive in getting this news out now, even before this season ends. With some fans, this move will not be popular, but it was the right one.

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