Today, the Oakland Athletics designated Jim Johnson for assignment. And instantly Orioles fans were a buzz.
Should Jim Johnson come back to Baltimore?
It is an intriguing question. When Johnson was traded this year, some of the players took it hard. Johnson was a clubhouse leader, and also had the support of his manager, Buck Showalter.
Now, you could say Dan Duquette knew best. His closer had just had a down year, despite finishing 2013 with 50 saves, which led the majors. Johnson went 3-8 last year, but all the rest of his numbers weren’t awful.
So Johnson was off to Oakland, and was supposed to be their closer. But Jim struggled mightily, up until the point that now the A’s can’t use him at any point.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have used young converted starter Zach Britton. Much like Johnson, he couldn’t cut it as a starter, but a move to the bullpen helped him blossom.
Britton hasn’t been perfect, but only has two losses, both in spectacular fashion, to the Yankees and those very A’s, on walk off home runs by Carlos Beltran and Josh Donaldson. His ERA is under two, and Britton also is a strikeout and ground ball pitcher, something that Johnson was not.
Is there room for Johnson in the O’s bullpen right now? Absolutely not. The O’s cannot afford to add a pitcher with a 6.92 ERA to their roster.
But, there is room for Johnson. Jim was shaken when he was traded from the Orioles. He liked it here.
Send Johnson to AAA Norfolk, who is playing much better, winning 10 of 11. Let him work with coaches who had turned around the likes of Britton and Matusz and Chris Tillman.
Remember, Johnson was once seeing as a starter. And some think Britton should go back to being a starter. And while it doesn’t look like there is room in the O’s rotation either, if Johnson will go to AAA, he is another option for the Orioles.
Johnson should not be signed to a major league deal. But if he will take a minor league one, bring him back and let him sort his issues out.