Baltimore Orioles Trade Jim Johnson To Oakland Athletics For Jemile Weeks

Via ESPNThe Oakland Athletics have acquired AL saves leader Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named.  The teams announced the trade Monday night.  The two-time AL West champions found their closer to replace All-Star Grant Balfour, who became a free agent after the season.  While general manager Billy Beane had confidence he could fill the ninth-inning duties from within, he was able to find Balfour’s replacement via trade — a common December practice for the GM and low-budget club.  The 30-year-old Johnson converted 50 of 59 save opportunities in 2013, going 3-8 with a 2.94 ERA. He was tied with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel for the major leagues saves lead.  Johnson led the majors with 51 saves in 2012.

I said this would happen last week.

The Orioles swapped All-Star closer Jim Johnson for struggling 26 year old second baseman Jemile Weeks.  Weeks burst onto the scene at the end of 2011 with the A’s but couldn’t sustain his success in 2012 in the big leagues and found himself back in Triple A for 2013.  In my opinion this is a win for both teams.  The A’s are the reigning AL West champs and need a closer while the O’s shouldn’t be paying $10 million to a closer when they have an owner who is cheap and plenty of holes to fill.  I love this trade for the Orioles if Dan Duquette just got $10 million dollars to play with this off-season.  If not, well, then O’s fans, your owner does really suck a whole lot.

For Orioles fans, who freaked out last night around midnight when this story broke, this trade is seen as another shot in the foot by an organization who doesn’t care about winning. They’ll point to the numbers above and scream about the 100+ saves Johnson has had in the last two years.  Last night on Twitter, I kept laughing when people kept tweeting about how terrible the 9th inning is going to be next year. That they got a scrub from the A’s and they lost JIM FREAKIN JOHNSON. Hey Baltimore, RELAX.

Before I go any further I want you all to look at this link. (CLICK HERE)  This is Fangraphs’ list of top relievers by WAR.  In the top 20, there is exactly one reliever who made over $10 million last year.  His name is Mariano Rivera, only the greatest reliever in MLB history.  Jim Johnson ranked 49th on this list a few spots behind Jonathan Papelbon.  My point is that relievers are a dime a dozen and paying that kind of money for a closer when you have other glaring holes just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The Red Sox and Cardinals just played in the World Series last month and both of them had closers who didn’t start the season as closers.  They filled that role with guys who were really good at pitching and that’s what the Orioles will now have to do.  Jim Johnson was a good reliever who was getting expensive and everyone and their mom knew that the Orioles weren’t keeping him around.

So what about Jemile Weeks, the prospect who burst onto the stage two years ago and hasn’t been heard from yet?  I said last night that a change of scenery could do him some good.  He’s a talent who has shown flashes but hasn’t been able to find consistency at the big league level.  Last year at Triple A he had a .271 AVG and .376 OBP.  He had a 13% walk rate which isn’t bad and stole 17 bases.  If he can get 75% of that he basically Brian Roberts at a fraction of the cost.  Plus he’s controllable for the foreseeable future so if he turns it around, the Orioles got a steal of a deal.

In the end this deal will be decided in the money Duquette does or doesn’t get to spend as a result of the deal.  The Orioles have quite a few holes to fill and Duquette will have to make that money stretch for the Orioles to stay toward the top of the AL East.

The most important part of this entire deal, however, is the $10 million that the Orioles just saved themselves.  If Duquette has access to it the O’s will be able to add to a rotation that is weak and needs depth.  He’ll be able to potentially bring back Nate McLouth if he wants to and know that he can afford the raises for Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  This deal was about strengthening the team as a whole by trading from a strength.  Sure the Orioles will have to