Orioles trade Johnson to A’s for Weeks
The Orioles made their first big move this winter late Monday night, trading All-Star closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
The deal comes on the heels of a frenzy of Johnson trade rumors earlier in the day, as Baltimore was aggressively shopping the arbitration-eligible right-hander given his second consecutive 50-save season that would have resulted in a salary around $10 million in 2014.
“These trades are difficult decisions, but sometimes you have to try to to reallocate resources so that the club can be strong in all the areas it needs to be competitive,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of the move which frees up salary for the Orioles to be aggressive elsewhere in free agency. “That’s what the club is trying to address with this trade.
“Weeks is a talented player, versatile in several areas, a good base stealer with good on-base [percentage], especially against right-handed pitching…Jim Johnson has been with the Orioles his whole career and we appreciate the work he’s done. He came up through the system and we want to wish him a lot of luck and opportunity.”
Johnson led the Majors with 101 saves over the past two seasons and he converted 50 of 59 in 2013, with his nine blown saves making him the subject of fan ire in the second half of last season. An All-Star in ’12, Johnson went 18-26 with a 3.11 ERA in six seasons with the Orioles and was the second-longest tenured active player —behind Nick Markakis— as well as a clubhouse leader.
Duquette, who spoke with Johnson after the trade was made, said it’s always a difficult personally to make these trades and thanked Johnson for his diligence the past few years. As for who will close games for the Orioles, the organization will continue to look externally although Duquette didn’t rule out promoting a current member of the bullpen, similar to what they did with Johnson who took over the ninth-inning duties full time at the end of 2011.
In Weeks, the Orioles got a former first-round selection of the A’s —in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft— and a versatile infielder who could help fill their hole at second base. Week played in just eight games for Oakland in 2013 and hit .271 with 19 doubles, 10 triples and 40 RBIs in 130 games for Triple-A Sacramento. He was also tied for the team lead with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Weeks had a stellar rookie season in 11, batting .303 with 26 doubles and 36 RBIs in 97 games for the A’s and Duquette said he’s also capable of playing shortstop, center field and designated hitter if need be.
The Orioles, in addition to rotation help, are in need of a DH, left fielder and second baseman and Monday’s trade helps give them some breathing room to compete for free agents.
“The personal part of it is tough because Jimmy was originally drafted and signed into the organization and solely played for the Orioles and that makes it difficult,” Duquette said. “But the way these things work a lot of times its about resource allocation. Jimmy deserves a lot of credit [for the team’s success], he did a nice job for the Orioles and gave his best over the course of his career.”
Baltimore, which agreed to contracts with outfielders Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce on Monday, tendered deals to their other six arbitration eligible players: Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris, Troy Patton, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. The team did not offer contracts to Eddie Gamboa and Jason Pridie, which removes them from the 40-man roster.