O's need more than Johnson trade

Baltimore must make some major moves after unloading its pricey closer

Updated: December 3, 2013, 11:56 AM ET
By Dan Szymborski | ESPN Insder

The Baltimore Orioles finally joined the rest of baseball in the offseason, trading closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later. Trading away their closer is almost an uncharacteristic move for a team that spent all of last offseason doing practically nothing to improve.

Johnson had an impressive number of saves the past two seasons, leading the majors with 101 combined. But compared to the more dominating closers, Johnson's numbers haven't been impressive. Despite solid ERAs, Johnson's peripheral numbers have been considerably less exciting, and he's not the type of closer who can dominate batters like some others of the breed, such as Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, or Greg Holland.

Johnson's K/9 rate of 5.4 in 2012 was the worst strikeout rate for a 40-save pitcher since Danny Graves and Jose Mesa in 2004, and even his improved 7.1 this past season ranked 121st out of 147 40-save seasons in history. For his career, Johnson's strikeout rate is 72nd out of 76 pitchers who have collected 100 saves dating to 1992. That said, the A's are committed to him for only one year, and former closer Grant Balfour is now a free agent. Furthermore, they gave up very little to get him.

In return for Johnson, the Orioles received Weeks, the younger brother of Rickie Weeks and Oakland's former second baseman until a dreadful 2012 cost him his job. While his 2013 minor league line of .271/.376/.369 for Triple-A Sacramento looks superficially impressive, the Pacific Coast League remains a high-offense environment, and players who get a large chunk of their value from walks tend to translate poorly to the majors.


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