The Oakland Athletics traded for Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson late Monday night, sending second baseman Jemile Weeks to the east coast. Johnson is going to be owed $10 million-plus in salary next season because his is arbitration eligible. This trade makes sense on one end because the Athletics need a closer but it seems that the team could overpay for Johnson.
Johnson led the league in saves for the second straight year, recording 50 of them. His ERA was a 2.94, but he did have eight losses last season as well. Oakland is going to overpay for Johnson in salary arbitration this offseason. However, it is fine because the A’s have a lot of young, affordable players that have won plenty of games before. But if you could overpay for Johnson, why wouldn’t you overpay to bring back Grant Balfour?
Balfour is a fan favorite at the O.Co Coliseum after stepping into the closer role full-time with Oakland in 2012. Balfour is going to be a hot free-agent closer and if you saw Moneyball, you know that general manager Billy Beane is not going to shell out money for a closer. With Johnson, he will be paying more than $10 million for possibly a year. Johnson earned $6.5 million plus performance bonuses.
The trade seems more of an impulse decision rather than really taking a hard look at the market and making an offer to someone like Balfour, Brian Wilson or even Joaquin Benoit. We will see next season if the trade pays its dividends.