For the Oakland Athletics, who currently own the best record in Major League Baseball at 62-38, it's hard to find a lot of things wrong. One of the few moves that backfired on general manager Billy Beane, however, was trading for reliever Jim Johnson last winter.
The A's have rectified that situation by designating Johnson for assignment, according to the team's official Twitter account Thursday:
#Athletics recall Evan Scribner from Sacramento and designate Jim Johnson for assignment.— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) July 24, 2014
Aaron Leibowitz of MLB.com tweeted out what was happening during Johnson's last moments in the A's locker room after he got the news:
Jim Johnson just left the locker room after saying goodbye to his A's teammates.— Aaron Leibowitz (@aaron_leib) July 24, 2014
Even though the A's have 10 days to decide what to do with Johnson since they designated him for assignment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the most likely scenario is the team ends up releasing him:
Johnson can decline a minor-league assignment if he were to go through waivers. More likely to be released.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 24, 2014
This certainly has been a year Johnson wants to forget. He was an All-Star with Baltimore in 2012, but the Orioles traded him for second baseman Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas in December 2013, presumably as a cost-cutting measure since Johnson was eligible for arbitration. Johnson signed a one-year deal for $10 million with the A's in January.
Johnson lost his job as Oakland's closer on April 10 after allowing seven runs in his first five appearances. Oakland manager Bob Melvin did use him in 38 games this year, but things never turned around as he posted a 6.92 ERA and allowed 60 hits in 40.1 innings.
Despite those struggles, the news is not all bad for Johnson. Assuming the A's do release him, he will hit the market at an opportune time. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31, and teams may not be willing to deal prospects for bullpen help down the stretch.
If that turns out to be the case, Johnson can pitch himself to any team looking for relievers, which is essentially every contender this time of year. All they will have to give up to sign him is a little money.
Johnson has postseason experience with the Orioles from 2012 and posted ERA totals under 3.00 every year from 2011 to 2013. He may not be that dominant anymore, but he has a good enough recent track record to make him worth a gamble down the stretch.
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