With closer Jim Johnson set to make $10 million or more in his final year of arbitration, the Orioles decided to deal him rather than pay him a 50 percent raise. Baltimore found a trade partner in the Athletics, who surrendered 26-year-old second baseman Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas to acquire Johnson.
“It’s really about the allocation of resources,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told The Baltimore Sun. “And to have a competitive team, you have to have proper balance throughout your club. And this is our intent with the trade, to balance our roster and allocate our resources properly and have a competitive team in 2014.”
Jemile Weeks, 2b/cf
Age: 26. Bats: B.
Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in first round (12th overall) of 2008 draft; signed July 8, 2008.
Weeks seemed well on his way to becoming a fixture at second base for the Athletics following a 2011 rookie season in which he batted .303/.340/.421 and swiped 22 bases. Oakland lost confidence in its 2008 first-round pick the following season, however, when he compiled a .304 on-base percentage while batting primarily first or second in the order. The A’s gave Weeks a token September callup in 2013, starting him only once, and they might have non-tendered him had they not found a trade partner. He has one minor league option remaining.
For all his problems in 2012 and ’13, Weeks offers dimensions the Orioles lack in the middle infield, namely plus speed, quick-twitch athleticism and a grinding, on-base-oriented hitting approach. A switch-hitter, he hits with more authority from the left side, batting .296/.397/.405 in 670 plate appearances versus righthanders at Triple-A Sacramento since 2011. His walk (13 percent) and strikeout (16 percent) rates are stable from both sides, though he has no power. The A’s introduced Weeks to shortstop and center field at Triple-A in 2013, though he’s a fringy defender at all positions.
David Freitas, c/cf
Age: 24. Bats: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Nationals in 15th round of 2010 draft; signed June 10, 2010 … Traded by Nationals to Athletics for C Kurt Suzuki and cash, Aug. 3, 2012.
Freitas batted .231 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI in 90 games with Triple-A Sacramento and Double-A Midland in 2013. He ranked 27th among Nationals prospects prior to the 2012 season, but was not ranked among A’s prospects prior to this season. He has slow actions and projects as an organizational backup, which has some value, with an adequate throwing arm.
Jim Johnson, rhp
Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for final time in 2014 ($6.5 million salary in 2013).
Johnson has paced the American League in saves the past two seasons, notching 51 in 2012 and 50 this season. However, he also paced the AL with nine blown saves in 2013, while seeing several key indicators erode when compared with previous seasons. Johnson finished 2013 with his worst rates for walks (2.3 BB/9), home runs (0.64 HR/9), baserunners (1.28 WHIP) and groundballs (58 percent) since becoming a prominent member of the Orioles bullpen in 2011. Johnson has only one year of club control remaining, so the Athletics are taking a low-risk flier on an extreme groundball reliever with strong control. In other words, he’s almost the exact opposite of 2013 closer Grant Balfour, who currently is a free agent.