Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason A's news on the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
That $22 million contract the A’s gave left-hander Scott Kazmir was only the start of a very busy day.
Oakland finalized a trade Monday night to acquire Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
In one day, the A’s added a significant piece to their starting rotation and the back end of their bullpen. They also added approximately $22 million to their 2014 payroll.
Johnson, a 30-year-old right-hander, led the American League last season with 50 saves, and his 101 saves over the past two years are tops in the majors. He will fill the hole left by Grant Balfour, who was an excellent closer for Oakland the past two years but will sign elsewhere via free agency.
Johnson is a pricey acquisition, and trading for him runs counter to the A’s long-time philosophy of not paying big money to closers. He’s in his third year of arbitration eligibility and figures to command between $10.5 and 11 million in 2014. He can become a free agent after the season.
While the 6-foot-6 Johnson boasts an eye-popping saves total, his numbers were inferior to Balfour’s in several categories in 2013. Balfour posted a lower ERA (2.59 to 2.94), a lower WHIP ratio (1.197 to 1.280) and a lower opponents’ batting average (.206 to .273). Johnson also had more blown saves (nine to three).
But Balfour is likely searching for a two-year deal on the open market which would pay him $8 to $10 million annually, whereas the A’s can cut ties with Johnson after one season if they wish (or vice versa).
Weeks was the A’s first-round draft pick in 2008. But after a promising rookie season of 2011, when he hit .303 with 22 stolen bases, the speedy switch hitter fell off the radar. He hit just .221 in 2012 before being sent to the minors in August of that season and never regained steady playing time.
In addition to Weeks, the Orioles will receive a player to be named later or future considerations. It’s unknown if Baltimore is sending the A’s any cash to help offset Johnson’s salary.
Earlier Monday, the A’s reportedly agreed to a two-year $22 million contract with Kazmir, a free agent lefty who will slot in their rotation and help fill the void left by Bartolo Colon, who also is departing via free agency.
The A’s expressed interest in re-signing Colon, but the signing of Kazmir ensures Colon's time in Oakland is done.
That’s approximately $33 million in total contract money the A’s took on Monday, and it shows how serious general manager Billy Beane and his staff are about trying to make a deep postseason run with this current group of players.
Oakland has won back-to-back American League West titles but was bounced in the Division Series each time. The A’s haven’t reached the World Series since Beane took over as GM before the 1998 season. They last played in the Fall Classic in 1990, when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.
Think the A’s are finished with their heavy offseason activity? Don’t bet on it.
Left-hander Brett Anderson is a trade possibility, and with the A’s having signed Kazmir to beef up the rotation, they could be more inclined to deal Anderson if they find a willing trade partner. It makes sense that the A’s might now shift gears and look for a hitter via the trade route or free agency.