The Oakland A’s 2014 appointed closer at the beginning of the season was Jim Johnson. However, due to his poor performance, he was demoted after only eight games. The Athletics agreed to pay Johnson a $10 million dollar salary, so that they could have the best closer in the MLB. However, Johnson has just not been effective.
Since his demotion, Johnson has pitched in relief from time to time, but not very successfully. Johnson currently has a 5.94 ERA with only 2 saves. Over 36.1 innings pitched, he has allowed 51 hits and 24 earned runs. When pitching at the O.co Coliseum, he has a staggering 14.01 ERA. Johnson’s latest outing against the Detroit Tigers spiraled out of control, and he allowed four earned runs in 0.1 innings. That pretty much sums up Johnson’s lack of success this season.
The money-conscious Oakland A’s do not like their spendings going to waste. Even though Johnson has had a miserable season so far, the Athletics are not going to designate him for assignment because then they will have to eat the rest of his contract. The ideal situation would be to trade Johnson.
But how are the A’s going to trade Johnson? Even though he is having a horrible season, Johnson’s reputation does prevail. He was a prominent closer who had more than 50 saves two seasons in a row. The though it that he was successful before and could be successful in the future. Back in early June, it was rumored that the Oakland A’s and Miami Marlins almost struck a deal to send Johnson to Miami in exchange for a draft pick and an unnamed player. Even though this deal fell through, it does provide some hope that Johnson will be able to be traded. Hopefully there is still some team out there that thinks Johnson can turn things around.
Now that left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty has been called up from Triple-A, the bullpen could afford to lose Johnson. But in order to make a deal happen, I think it is clear that the Oakland A’s will have to pick up at least some of Johnson’s contract or be willing to also trade top prospect. However, it does not seem as though the Oakland A’s are willing to trade top shortstop prospect Addison Russell.
Perhaps the A’s could add shortstop Jed Lowrie or versatile infield player Nick Punto into the mix since both of their contracts are up at the end of the year. Additionally, since Russell is expected to be brought up for the 2015 season, Lowrie will not be needed unless the Athletics’ keep him as a backup shortstop or second baseman. Punto only has a one year contract with Oakland, and the A’s have been rumored to be shopping around for a new second baseman anyways. If the Athletics are ok with losing either of these players, it could help finalize a deal to get Johnson out of Oakland.
Johnson is now the highest paid middle-reliever in all of baseball. But for the Athletics, he is just a liability. If it makes Athletic fans feel better, Grant Balfour – Oakland’s 2013 closer – has a 5.18 ERA. Hopefully the Oakland A’s can find a way to trade Johnson, and make some room for some more reliable players.
UPDATE – 7/5/14
The Oakland A’s have traded top prospect Addison Russell and others to the Chicago Cubs for two starting pitchers. For more information on this trade read “Chicago Cubs trade Samardzija and Hammel to Oakland“. I guess Russell was not as important as previously thought. Too bad the Oakland A’s could not use him to get Johnson out as well.