When the Baltimore Orioles traded Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics last season, many people weren’t happy about it. The general consensus was the that the trade that sent Johnson to Oakland in return for Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later was purely a salary dump by a greedy organization that was okay with being just good enough. Now, months later, that isn’t the case at all.
When the trade initially happened, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette explained the move.
“It’s really about the allocation of resources,” Dan Duquette told the Baltimore Sun. “And to have a competitive team, you have to have proper balance throughout your club. And this is our intent with the trade: to balance our roster and allocate our resources properly and have a competitive team in 2014.”
It took months for Duquette to keep his word, but he certainly allocated the Orioles’ resources and balanced the roster with the late signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jim Johnson is now making $10 million this season with the Athletics, but you can almost take the contract of Cruz and Tommy Hunter, the new Orioles closer, and add them up to equal Johnson’s contract. Cruz is making $8 million this year while Hunter is making $3 million. So essentially the Orioles have a potentially dominant closer and a bona fide slugger for the cost of Johnson, who blew a league-leading nine saves last season.
As dominant as Johnson is at times, he looks equally incompetent at others. He went through stretches last season where he couldn’t buy an out and it ultimately played a big role in costing the Orioles a playoff spot. The Orioles missed a playoff spot last season by six and a half games — Johnson blew nine saves and lost eight games.
This season in Oakland he’s not off to a good start. Johnson is 0-2 with an ERA of 45.00 in two appearances. He’s walked three batters, given up five hits and five runs in only one inning pitched. While this trend probably won’t continue, this is exactly the kind of trend that the Baltimore faithful would experience at crucial points of the season last year.
Johnson will still probably save 30 to 40 games for the Athletics, but he’ll probably blow between 5-10 games in the process. 5-10 games is a bit number, and Oakland fans will quickly learn how infuriating Johnson can be.
You might miss singing “The Pretender” when Johnson came in to close a game last season, but as a ball club the Orioles won’t miss Johnson on the field — and neither should you.