An emotional Johnson on leaving

The typically stoic Jim Johnson paused for a few seconds in an effort to regain his composure, as the right-hander —unusually emotional following Monday’s trade to Oakland— jokingly blamed reporters for getting all choked up.

“It actually just hit me five minutes ago,” Johnson said in a telephone interview with MLB.com and MASNSports.com on Tuesday morning. “Really, I’m not like this.”

But Monday’s deal —a shocking swap that netted the Orioles Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later—was tough to process for the home-grown Johnson, who was the longest tenured player on the roster, a clubhouse leader and a strong advocate in the community.

“Obviously watching how the changes in the last couple of years [in the organization] being a big part of it, I’m sorry,” Johnson said as he paused to regain his composure. “You got to give a lot of credit to [manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.

It’s been great playing there and for all my teammates. and watching that city transform the last couple years, I take great pride in that. Obviously, I have great memories looking back.”

Johnson was an integral part of the 2012 Oriole team that reached the postseason for the first time since ’97, as the right-hander went on to record the first of two consecutive 50-save seasons and was named to the American League All-Star team. Johnson, who took over the full-time closing role that year, was also the subject of fan ire in ’13 as he went 50-for-59 in save opportunities, leading the League in saves and blown saves in a season in which the O’s were eliminated from the playoffs in the final week.

He got word of the trade when flying out to San Diego, a trip scheduled for players union meetings, and by the time Johnson landed on the West Coast his phone was flooded with texts and phone calls.

“It’s obviously going to be tough, but I’m not concerned about the baseball stuff it’s the family stuff your mind goes to, your kids, your wife all that stuff,” said Johnson, who owns a home in Sarasota, Fla, where the Orioles hold Spring Training, and spearheaded the club’s annual charity golf tournament. “But we got great friends and family, so we will let the baseball stuff work itself out. That’s the easy part for me [to adjust to], the baseball stuff.”

While Monday’s trade was a shock, Johnson’s name did surface in trade rumors earlier in the day and the right-hander said he was made aware by friends about some of the speculation that the Orioles could try to move him. The deal has been widely perceived as a salary dump given that Johnson stands to make more than $10 million in arbitration and Duquette referenced “reallocating of the resources” several times in describing the move.

“You are asking the wrong guy,” Johnson said when asked to opine on the reasoning behind the trade. “I have my own theories, but I’ll keep them to myself. You know what, at this time I’m not going to focus on…now is the time to focus on I had a great time, a great run, everything was great, but now I got to focus on helping the Oakland A’s. They are the team that wanted me; there is a reason why.”

Johnson had already spoken with A’s manager Bob Melvin and assistant general manager David Forst and said he’s heard good things abut his new organization.

“It’s a new chapter you know, something thats new to me but I’ll be fine,” Johnson said as he struggled to not get choked up again.  “I’m also very thankful to my past.”

2 Comments

Brittany,
Do you think the A’s are maybe thinking outside the box again and plan to make JJ a top of the rotation starter…at $10m+ he would be a steal if he wins 15 to 20 games for the A’s. Hope we didn’t get outsmarted…

Trading the home-grown Jimmy Johnson, who was one of the longest tenured players on the roster, a clubhouse leader and a strong advocate in the Baltimore community, although to reallocate resources as mr. Duqette said, will be marked, according to my modest opinion, as a historic error. It remembered me when in NY they thought about trading Rivera. Finally they didn’t. The rest is history. Jimmy J. was a cornerstone in our team and surely our pitching staff. As a fan of the Orioles since 1965 I’m disappointed with this move. Money does not make teams.

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