The Oakland Athletics made another high-profile move on Monday, acquiring closer Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles for second baseman Jemile Weeks. The Athletics team Twitter account announced the move late Monday night:
The #Athletics have acquired Orioles closer Jim Johnson in exchange for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) December 3, 2013
The deal comes hours after Oakland reportedly agreed to a two-year, $22 million contract with free-agent starter Scott Kazmir. Johnson is in line for a big pay raise from his 2013 salary of $6.5 million as he enters his final year of arbitration, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
Jim Johnson’s projected salary in arbitration is $10M+. #Athletics can overpay for closer due to high number of affordable young players.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2013
ESPN's Buster Olney provided insight surrounding reaction from within the league to the trade:
Industry perception is that the Orioles' trade of Jim Johnson was a giveaway, a total salary dump.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 3, 2013
Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com followed with reaction from Johnson himself:
Jim Johnson very emotional on the phone about leaving. Said "Watching that city transform the last couple years, I take great pride in that"— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 3, 2013
Johnson said he was aware of the recent trade rumors, but was still a total shock. Choked up a few times about no longer being an Oriole.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 3, 2013
Johnson wouldn't get into why he thought the trade happened, though it's an obvious salary dump. Just said "I have my own theories" #orioles— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) December 3, 2013
The A's had a need at closer with Grant Balfour a free agent and probably not returning to the team. They were able to reel in one of the game's best without sacrificing much in return. Johnson led all of baseball with 51 saves in 2012 and tied Craig Kimbrel with an MLB-best 50 saves in 2013. In the past two seasons combined, he converted 89.3 percent of his save opportunities (101-of-113), while posting a 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 6.3 K/9 ratio.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane has made his reputation on bold moves and he showed why Monday. By adding an estimated $21 million of salary this year, he's living up to his word that the team would be increasing its payroll.
Weeks figures to step in as Baltimore's everyday second baseman with the completion of Brian Roberts' big four-year deal in 2013. Weeks, who turns 27 in January, fell out of favor with the Oakland organization following a stellar rookie year in 2011 when he batted .303/.340/.421 with 123 hits, two HR, 36 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 97 games.
He followed that up in 2012 by posting a .221/.305/.304 slash line with two homers, 20 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 118 contests. The A's relied on Eric Sogard and Alberto Callaspo at second base for the 2013 season while Weeks stayed in Triple-A, appearing in just eight games with the A's all year. Still, Weeks showed a lot of promise during his rookie season that makes him an intriguing, low-cost option for Baltimore.
Shortly after the trade was announced, Weeks voiced his appreciation for the Oakland fanbase, which gave him a warm welcome during his September callup last season:
Love you @Athletics fans and organization. Again, I LOVE YALL. HEELLLLOOOO @baltimoreorioles, just happy right now for opportunity.— Jemile Weeks (@RealJemileWeeks) December 3, 2013
Johnson had been rumored to be on the trading block with free agency looming in 2015 and the Orioles looking to lock up Chris Davis to a long-term deal before he hits the open market in 2016. It remains to be seen how this affects other Orioles mentioned in trade rumors like Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy (via Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun).