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A’s remove $10 million pickup Jim Johnson from closer role

Apr 10, 2014, 11:51 AM EST

Jim Johnson A's AP

Oakland general manager Billy Beane raised a lot of eyebrows this offseason when he acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles and paid him $10 million to serve as the A’s closer. And now, less than two weeks into the season, Johnson has already pitched himself out of the closer role.

Johnson has been a mess, coughing up seven runs while recording 10 total outs and allowing opponents to hit .529 with a 1.145 OPS. And in addition to the 18.90 ERA he’s taken two of the A’s three losses this season.

For now manager Bob Melvin says he plans to go with a closer-by-committee approach and one nice thing about Beane spending so much money and resources building the bullpen is that there are plenty of capable ninth-inning options on the roster, including Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, and Ryan Cook.

Johnson’s league-leading 50 saves last season masked a whole bunch of struggles for the Orioles and Beane paying $10 million for a so-called “proven closer” seemed very odd, but certainly no one could have expected Johnson to completely fall apart like this. I bet he gets another crack at the job eventually.

  1. tsuscrumhalf - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    JJ will be back. He put too much pressure on himself with a new team and a big contract. Once he settles in, he will be fine.

    • renaado - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      I really hope that won’t happen after the all-star break though…

  2. gigab0t - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Next up on the chopping block: Joe Nathan

    • southpaw2k - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      This really doesn’t mean much of anything, but Joe Nathan and Jim Johnson are the two closers on my fantasy team. Guess I’ll be punting saves this season.

      • madhatternalice - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        I drafted Johnson, Parnell and Soria.

        Hooray Fantasy Sports!

  3. proudlycanadian - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    $10 million = (wasted) moneyball. Thought that the Yankees had a monopoly on that type of waste.

    • buggieowens - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      Jonathan Pablebon’s contract would like a word with you :)

      • proudlycanadian - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Great response.

    • metroplexsouthsider - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Mr. Moneyball’s not always so “money.” Actually, he needs to learn more about incorporating defensive sabermetrics into his market moves, given that he’s in a pitchers’ park. An all-around defensively good catcher, also good at managing a pitching staff, is a no-brainer for a place like there.

    • clydeserra - Apr 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      I think the hope was three fold,

      1) ZMOG saves, flip him at the deadline

      2) not have to commit to 2 years for a closer

      3) delay the closer roll to cook/otero/Doolittle to delay arb awards.

  4. inserthandle - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Hasn’t it been a few years since a free agent reliever got $10 million a year? Is it possible for the arbitration system to eventually adjust salaries downward, or does that just not happen?

    • inserthandle - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      Papelbon and Rivera, at least. Never mind.

    • toodrunktotastethischicken - Apr 10, 2014 at 6:19 PM

      Brian Wilson got a one year $10 Million deal to be an 8th inning guy.

  5. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    This is nothing new for JJ. He is not a typical closer/reliever. He tends to allow a lot of hits, and walks a few more than he should, but he lives and dies on the double play ball. Do not expect him to strike out the side on regular occasion. I haven’t watched a pitch he’s thrown this year, but I’ll bet all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket the big problem is he is elevating his pitches waste or higher. When he keeps the ball at knee level, his pitches sink properly and he gets the ground balls he needs. When he elevates the ball stays flat and goes a long way. He had a remarkably long streak of pitching effectively over the greater part of a year and a half. He’s slumping right now, and will eventually shake it off and Oakland fans will see what O’s fans saw in him a year ago. Still not worth 10mil a year, but then again, in my opinion, no one is.

    • Eutaw's Finest - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      And I stand my ground: you simply CANNOT have a pitch to contact closer. JJ is that guy.

      • clydeserra - Apr 10, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        especially with the A’s infield defense, which is not hardy/machado

  6. yahmule - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke!

    • renaado - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Skyyyyywalker!

      • richabbs - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Iamyourfaaaaaaaather!

      • renaado - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        Guuwwwwaaaaahhhhhh!

      • yahmule - Apr 10, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        Duuuuuuuuude! My friggin’ haaaaaaaaaaand!

        What the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  7. Eutaw's Finest - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Okay so by the All Star Break, which is greater: the number of hits for Jemile Weeks or the number of hits given up by Jim Johnson?

    • southpaw2k - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      Oh I’m taking Johnson on that bet. He’s got a 9-hit head start on Weeks already.

  8. southpaw2k - Apr 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    It’s amazing how quickly Duquette looks like a massive winner in unloading $10 million from the Orioles’ books.

  9. nogoodtomedead - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    I think Beane’s reasoning with JJ was that they could make the trade and only have to make a 1 yr commitment. Balfour was hitting the market and probably wanted a 2 or 3 year deal. If he pays off- great- if not he will be gone. Smart move by Beane to not get into a long term commitment.

  10. chiadam - Apr 10, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    $10 million for a closer. Beane used to be smarter than that.

  11. jrocknstuff - Apr 10, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Johnson’s stuff relies solely on mechanics. When his release point is on his ball sinks and makes him very difficult to hit, but there are times when he loses that release point and his ball stays flat. That’s when he becomes a sitting duck. If you recall last year there was a time when he blew 5 consecutive games for the Birds and Buck had to pull him out of the 9th inning for a few games to get him right. Yes, he saves 59 games, but he also blew 9…..not a great percentage. He is very hit of miss. Oakland needs to work with him on his release point and he will regain the closer role and save about 15 consecutive opportunities………until he loses his release point again.

  12. scatterbrian - Apr 10, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    There is more to Beane acquiring Johnson than simply getting a “proven closer”.

  13. disgracedfury - Apr 10, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    A lot of closers have bad beginnings even Mo had a 32.00era in one year in his first week and was abe to get it down to 3.50.Nathan and many others sometimes struggle.

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