Thoughts on the Orioles trading Jim Johnson

As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, The Baltimore Orioles have traded Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for Jemile Weeks. Orioles Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has also indicated to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun that a player to be named will also be coming from Oakland after the Rule V Draft.

On Sunday, my Baltimore Sports and Life (BSL) colleague Jeff Long wrote about Johnson’s limited trade value.

Earlier this off-season I wrote about how Johnson’s 2012 compared with his 2013 season. Prior to joining us here at BSL, Jeff and I’s fellow BSL Orioles Analyst Patrick Dougherty wrote it was time to ‘Say Goodbye to Jim Johnson‘ at his site Observational Studies.

Last Monday, I wrote that ‘The O’s need to spend $115M+, or be willing to make larger changes.”

I’ve included these multiple links as a prelude of stating the obvious. There was nothing about the trade of Johnson, which should surprise anyone.

The return in this trade is not Weeks, but the added payroll flexibility that moving Johnson brings.

(You can discuss the Johnson trade on the BSL Board here.)

Question 1) Should the O’s have moved Johnson last year?
Answer 1) Yes, they probably should have. Credit to the people who called for it (including a number of BSL Analysts, and our posters – but not me.)  Had the O’s traded Johnson last year, I think it is clear that they would have gotten more in return than Weeks. That seems evident. I think it is somewhat debatable of how much they would have gotten back though. Regardless of just how much more would have come back, not trading him last year has been shown to be the wrong move.

Question 2) Why didn’t the O’s trade Johnson last year?
Answer 2) Johnson, and the Orioles were coming off an exceptional season. A large portion of the success of the 2012 O’s was due to their bullpen, with Johnson’s performance helping to lead the way. Between April and July 2012, there was the thought that the O’s were winning with smoke and mirrors. In August and September 2012, the O’s played like a legitimately good team. I think you can argue that the Orioles attempted to keep the team that ended 2012 in-tact, giving them a chance to show what they were in ’13. That decision had some PR elements in it. Baseball wise it was probably the wrong move, but it was not indefensible either.

Question 3) Should the trade today, irritate me that Johnson was not traded last year? 
Answer 3) The fact that hindsight now (or the foresight of some last year), says Johnson should have been traded last year; doesn’t change the rationale of why trading him now makes sense.

The decision not to trade Johnson last year is not a decision that the O’s got to do over. They don’t get to go back to December 2012 and make that call again. They only thing the O’s could do here in December 2013 was make the best decision they could make today.

Should they have moved Johnson last year? Probably. However, you can keep beating them up for that, or you can judge them on today. Today, trading Johnson for what they can get, and getting that additional flexibility is the right move – since the budget is not increasing.

Again, kudos to those of you who called for trading Johnson last year. You made the right call. That move didn’t happen though. So the made the best decision they could today,  finding a taker, getting something back, and presumably will use Johnson’s salary elsewhere.

What the O’s should be judged on, is not the return for Johnson, but what they do with that additional salary, and if this helps them go into Spring Training as a better team than they ended the year as.

Question 4) I want to complain about something. What about this trade should I dislike?
Answer 4) If you want to be ticked about something, be ticked off that Duquette needs to make such a trade, to begin with. Again this trade was necessary to gain additional payroll flexibility, because the payroll appears to be staying flat at last years levels. That the payroll is apparently not increasing to the $115M range (which would have allowed the O’s to keep their existing core, and augment around it), is frustrating. It is frustrating because logic* dictates that the O’s should be in position to handle that additional payroll. (That logic being the increase in National TV revenue, the recent Bloomberg MLB Team Valuations, the estimated MASN revenues, etc.)

I can deal with their payroll staying flat, or even being reduced (though I can admit that would irritate me), if the Orioles allocate the budget they do have better; and the team improves overall.

If they don’t use Johnson’s salary elsewhere, I’ll complain loudly. I fully expect them to do so though. Some fans are going to be pissed off tomorrow, and I think they have reason. The O’s haven’t done anything yet. If the O’s can point to using Johnson’s salary elsewhere, and arrive in Spring Training with a better team; people will get over any irritation they currently feel. Even if many (pretty much all O’s fans) are still puzzled and/or ticked as to why the O’s were not willing to simply increase their payroll to a level which would have allowed the retention of the current core, and augmenting around them.

Question 5) Were the O’s better off with Johnson?
Answer 5) Clearly the O’s were better off with Johnson vs. just losing him and adding Weeks. That is not the point though. Should the O’s be spending more? Probably, but if they are not going to do so, then they needed do make this move.

Duquette obviously thinks the O’s are better off moving Johnson. It seems evident he is working within the constraints of a budget. His internal debate was on how to best allocate the funds available to him. There is no reason to think that the money Johnson would have received, will not be utilized to add further talent.

If Duquette was not planning on using that money elsewhere, he could have just kept Johnson. The only reason to make this trade is because Duquette thinks he can utilize these resources in a better fashion, that actually improves the team.

I dislike that Duquette was forced to make this decision, but I’m glad he did. Now go improve the team.

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About the author


Chris Stoner   

Majority Owner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, ESPN 1300, FOX 1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. You can find Stoner on Twitter @BmoreSportsLife, and you can reach him via email at Chris.Stoner@baltimoresportsandlife.com.


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