Not too long before the 2014 MLB Draft, the Oakland A's nearly had a deal to trade former closer Jim Johnson to the Miami Marlins for an early round draft pick, but the deal never happened and Johnson remained with Oakland.
With a month to go until the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31, Oakland will still be looking to deal Johnson, who lost his closers role to Sean Doolittle and has fallen on hard times since being shipped from the Baltimore Orioles out west this past winter.
The 30-year-old is pitching to a 3-2 record with a 6.46 ERA in 24 appearances with 17 strikeouts and two saves in 23.2 innings this season. The ERA is certainly alarming since one year ago, he had a 2.94 ERA with the Orioles pitching in a much harder division. In the 23.2 innings, he's allowed 17 runs and 14 walks; last year with Baltimore he allowed all of 18, which had gotten him into trouble and eventually, his demotion from the closer's job.
However, even though Johnson has struggled in 2014, that hasn't stopped teams from being interested in the former All Star, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has reported that the New York Yankees are amongst one of several teams that could be in the mix for Johnson.
"The San Francisco Chronicle reported the A’s nearly traded Johnson to the Marlins last week. So, they’re willing to dump the former Orioles closer, who had 50-plus saves in back-to back seasons. Could the Orioles, Yankees, and Tigers be interested suitors, as well? All three are looking for bullpen help, but Johnson’s rough start and his salary would surely make it a major gamble."
Cafardo mentioned Johnson's salary as a potential road block for some teams this summer; he's making $10 million this season, but for a team like the Yankees, adding money is never an issue, especially since it would be the remainder of the $10 million and then he would become a free agent following the 2014 season.
The Yankees tried to make a play for former Red Sox and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, but he signed last month with the Detroit Tigers and with Joe Nathan struggling this year, Hanrahan might have a chance to reclaim a closer spot this year. The Tigers were listed as an interested party and given what happens with both Nathan and Hanrahan, they too could be a team that could try and add him.
The Orioles were the other team listed, but would the Orioles want to trade back for a pitcher that they dumped on Oakland because they didn't want to pay him $10 million? Probably not the likliest of scenarios, but since Baltimore is in the A.L. East race and just a half-game up on the Yankees, you never know.
But back to the Yankees, who have had to tinker around their bullpen with Alfredo Aceves getting desginated for assignment, Jose Ramirez getting called up, Wade LeBlanc getting claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels (and struggled in his first relief appearance), plus Shawn Kelley still on the DL, although he may come back soon, but he's dealt with back problems all season long. David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Matt Thornton have been the strength of the bullpen this season, but having a former closer could always help.
Sure, adding Johnson is a gamble, especially since he's been struggling this season, but it's also hard to ignore a closer who had back-to-back 50 save seasons in 2012 and 2013 and pitched to a 2.00-ERA in each year; 51 saves with a 2.49 ERA in 2012 and 50 saves with a 2,94 ERA in 2013.
If the A's are willing to just dump the salary and not ask for much in return for Johnson, who is also a native from New York, then it might not hurt to look at him and see if he can find some of the magic he had in Baltimore with another American League East team.
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