The Oakland Athletics released former Orioles closer Jim Johnson on Friday, which means that any club will be able to sign him at just the prorated portion of the minimum major league salary soon.
Chances are, that club will be the Orioles, who dealt Johnson to the A’s to avoid a big arbitration payday. But there is some question as to exactly when he will be available to sign, so manager Buck Showalter was hesitant to talk about him during Friday’s pregame news briefing.
“He still has a day or two, as I understand it, and some things he has to clear before he becomes public fodder to talk about,” Showalter said, “so I don’t think that’s there yet, from what I’ve been told.”
Johnson was designated for assignment July 24, after a rocky tenure with the A’s in which he struggled from the start and quickly lost his closer role. The A’s had 10 days from that date to trade, waive or release him, and cut Johnson loose on Friday after he cleared waivers.
He was 4-2 with a 7.14 ERA and had just two saves.
The A’s announced the release, but the Orioles organization believes it would be required to wait until Sunday, the end of the full 10-day designation period, before showing interest in re-signing him.
“I’m just going by what the people who do that for a living for us say. We’re still a day or two from some contractual obligations that we need to be careful about talking about,’’ Showalter said. “I don’t mind talking about Jimmy. We like Jimmy. He pitched real well for us here. I think he’s on his way to Sarasota [where he lives]. I know [pitching rehabilitation coordinator] Scotty McGregor is real close with him. If he becomes completely available, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would have interest in him, including us.”
It’s not a foregone conclusion that he would come back to the Orioles, but it’s a fair assumption, considering his history with the club and the proximity of his home to the Orioles spring training facility.
If the Orioles do end up re-signing him, they probably would allow him some time in Sarasota to decompress after a frustrating four months in Oakland before giving him an opportunity to work out his mechanical issues in the minor leagues.
Since the Triple-A Norfolk roster is brimming with pitchers, it’s possible Johnson would be assigned to Double-A Bowie.
In a perfect world, he would be ready to return to the major leagues when rosters expand Sept. 1.