Among Orioles fans today, a lot of angst over the trade of Jim Johnson. As first reported by Ken Rosenthal Monday night on twitter:
Needless to say, on first thought I wasn’t a big fan. Dan Duquette traded the leader in saves the past two years for a guy who is a low-tier second baseman. Then I found out that Jemile Weeks wasn’t even in the majors in 2013, and I was even more frustrated. But let’s take a step back.
The Orioles were never paying a closer $10 million. Just not happening on a team that not only needs several key pieces to contend (LF, 2B and SP) but also has several key internal free agents that need to be signed soon in Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. Plus, with several comments made earlier this year about retooling the bullpen, you knew a change was coming.
What it means though is that the Orioles lost a guy who was a leader in the clubhouse. The team has players capable of replacing that. Do they have someone who can step up and close? Or do they go outside and bring in a closer, such as Grant Balfour, who is intriguing as the former A’s closer, but I don’t think fits the Orioles clubhouse. Other options out there include Edward Mujica and Jesse Crain. Tommy Hunter has the mentality to close, but his propensity to leaving up the long ball will leave fans on edge. Another name I will toss out that is on the roster is Troy Patton. I really think Patton could make a pretty darn good closer.
In Weeks, the Orioles got a second baseman who is not going to wow anyone. In fact, I would say Ryan Flaherty is better than Weeks, and younger too. General Manager Dan Duquette told MASN’s Roch Kubatko:
“Jemile is a switching-hitting middle infield, and he’s a good baserunner and bases-stealer,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “He’s good at getting on base, especially against right-handed pitching. And this past season, in addition to playing second base, he saw significant time in center field and occasionally played shortstop and was the DH. He has some versatility to help the ballclub. We think he’s a good addition. He has a lot of good qualities to help the team.”
We all can read through that. This is a guy who is not a lock to even make the roster. He has flexibility, has a decent OBP and is a guy who can use his speed. Several things that the Orioles sorely need. But let’s face it, he was in AAA last year for a reason.
What it comes down to is not this deal, but who the Orioles can sign with the money they saved. If it is an everyday player, such as Shin Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, this move works well. If it is Matt Garza, I also think the move is a good one. Or maybe it frees up roster space to trade for a larger contract.
This trade can’t properly be evaluated until the Orioles use the money they saved. The ball is in Duquette’s court to show that trading a fan favorite (although frustrating at times) and a guy whose stats the last two years were quite good for a guy who likely won’t make the roster was worth it.