Carroll County Times

O's begin moves with trade of Johnson

Former Orioles relief pitcher Jim Johnson throws to the Rangers in a game in Arlington, Texas Aug. 21, 2012.

Since free agency began on Nov. 5, the Baltimore Orioles had been quiet, making only a few minor moves here and there without filling any of their major needs.
The Orioles made their first major move late Monday night, sending closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics. Now, Baltimore has another position to fill by finding a new closer.
If the Orioles decide to fill the role with a reliever already on the roster, then the most likely choice would be Tommy Hunter. Hunter was tremendous in late-inning relief in 2013, pitching to a 2.81 ERA in 68 appearances.
Or Baltimore could make another trade to acquire a closer.
According to an report Tuesday, the Orioles are likely to go outside of the organization because of Hunter's struggles against left-handed hitters. One closer that is available is John Axford, who pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals last season.
Either way, the Orioles' new closer may not match what Johnson was able to do during his two-plus seasons as the closer in Baltimore. Johnson had 101 saves over the past two seasons, becoming just the second closer in major-league history to have consecutive 50-save seasons.
He had 51 saves in 54 chances in 2012, while making the American League All-Star team, and was an instrumental part of the Orioles' turnaround season.
Although he had 50 saves this past season, he also blew nine save chances and had eight losses. But Baltimore manager Buck Showalter stuck with him all season.
The Orioles would likely have had to pay Johnson more than they were willing to if they had held onto the 30-year-old. Some estimates had Johnson in line to make more than $10 million in arbitration.
Now, Baltimore will have more spending money to either pay Chris Davis or Matt Wieters, who will both get large raises in arbitration, or fill one of the other holes on the team. That could include resigning either left fielder Nate McLouth or starting pitcher Scott Feldman.
"Sometimes you have to make tough decisions," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told early Tuesday morning. "We have to allocate our resources to be competitive year-in and year-out and to be competitive in 2014."
In exchange for Johnson, the Orioles received second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later. Weeks had one hit in eight games with Oakland last season, but hit .271 for Class-AAA Sacramento.
In 2011, Weeks, the younger brother of former Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, hit .303 in 97 games for the A's.
"Weeks is a talented player," Duquette said. "He's a good on-base man. He's a switch-hitter who is a good base stealer and a good base runner."
The acquisition of Weeks could affect if the Orioles decide to resign Brian Roberts, the longest-tenured player on Baltimore's roster last season. Roberts made $10 million in 2013 after battling injuries the past several seasons.
If Roberts does return to the Orioles, he will have to take a large drop in salary. Baltimore also still has Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop, in addition to Weeks, on the current roster.
NOTES: The Orioles agreed to one-year contracts with outfielders Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce Monday night. Reimold, who has battled neck injuries the past few seasons, will make $1 million in 2014. Pearce will make $700,000. ... Baltimore also offered contracts to six arbitration-eligible players - Davis, Wieters, Hunter, Bud Norris, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.