This was probably the No. 1 question heading into this past week. But Dan Duquette scuttled speculation by saying he would tender a contract to closer Jim Johnson, who is in his final year of arbitration this winter. Johnson has saved 101 games for the Orioles in the past two seasons, leading the AL in saves each year. This season, though, he blew nine saves and was charged with eight losses. After making $6.5 million in 2013, his salary could jump to roughly $9 million. That's a lot to pay to a closer, especially for a club that in recent years has had more success appointing closers (Johnson, Koji Uehara) than buying them (Kevin Gregg, Michael Gonzalez). If Johnson is indeed back, that answers the 2014 closer question. Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day both will return, likely as top set-up men. Lefties Troy Patton and Brian Matusz are arbitration eligible. They could be dangled as trade bait, but, for now, are in the bullpen. The Orioles acquired Francisco Rodriguez in July to help provide stability. He wasn't used in many high-leverage situations and is expected to become a free agent and probably sign elsewhere. With a strong September, Josh Stinson pitched himself into a potential bullpen role next year. T.J. McFarland, a Rule 5 pick who lasted all season in the majors, will get a look at starting, either in the minors or majors, but he could end up as a long man again. So there may be bullpen tweaks, but probably not an overhaul.
Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun