The Baltimore Orioles made their first significant move of the offseason, and it was a big one.
The club traded closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for former top prospect Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
Johnson was set to make $10 million in arbitration, a figure the Orioles likely figured was far too much to pay for a closer, and one that almost single-handedly ruined their playoff chances last year. When you are working within the confines of a budget, spending $10 million on one piece of the bullpen just doesn't make much sense.
Johnson finished with back-to-back 50+ save seasons in 2012 and 2013, a feat accomplished by only a handful of closers. However, his 2013 season had a couple of nightmarish stretches that saw him blow a bunch of saves, which really hurt his value on the trade market. A lot of Johnson's other numbers were very comparable to 2012, but luck wasn't on his side.
Weeks is a former first-round pick who at one time showed a lot of potential. Some might try to liken this trade to the one that brought Chris Davis to Baltimore, but they are not that similar. Weeks does bring speed to the lineup and walks a fair amount. He will give the team additional depth at second base, a position that remains in flux.
The A's will likely plug Johnson in as their closer after losing Grant Balfour in free agency.
The sad part of the trade is that it really amounts to nothing more than a salary dump, and it comes at the hands of the Oakland Athletics, one of the thriftiest organizations in all of baseball. What exactly does that say about the Orioles and owner Peter Angelos, who still appears unwilling to spend money, instead choosing to pocket all of the profits?
Time will tell, as it's clear the Orioles wanted Johnson's 2014 salary off the books before baseball's winter meetings, which is where some big deals tend to go down. The Orioles have plenty of areas of need, so the weeks leading up to Christmas should be interesting to say the least.