A’s Acquire Closer Johnson, Add Starter Kazmir
JANIE McCAULEY, AP Baseball Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — In one productive day, Athletics general manager Billy Beane filled two important pitching voids.
The A’s acquired AL saves leader Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night as a replacement for All-Star closer Grant Balfour. That move came hours after free-agent left-hander Scott Kazmir agreed to terms on a $22 million, two-year contract.
Kazmir’s deal is pending a physical, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t made a formal announcement.
As has long been Beane’s December practice, he improved his team by trading away young talent developed through the farm system.
The A’s got Johnson for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named in the swap announced late Monday by both teams.
The switch-hitting Weeks was a first-round draft pick by Oakland in 2008 and has played parts of the past three seasons in the big leagues. He batted .271 with 19 doubles, 10 triples, four home runs and 40 RBIs in 130 games for Triple-A Sacramento last season. He shared the club lead with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Balfour became a free agent after the season and is expected to command a multiyear deal. While Beane expressed confidence he could fill the ninth-inning duties from within, he opted for a trade, as has become a necessary function for the low-budget club.
The 30-year-old Johnson converted 50 of 59 save opportunities in 2013, going 3-8 with a 2.94 ERA. He was tied with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel for the major leagues saves lead.
Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves in 2012, earned $6.5 million in base salary this year. He also made a $25,000 bonus for finishing at least 55 games, leading the majors with 63.
Beane has been determined to keep as much of his winning roster intact heading toward 2014 to make another playoff push. The A’s have lost each of the past Octobers in five-game division series against the Detroit Tigers.
The 29-year-old Kazmir went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts and 158 innings last season for the Cleveland Indians. It marked his return to the big leagues for the first time since making one poor outing for the Angels in 2011, which followed a 9-15 performance in 2010 for Los Angeles.
With the pending acquisition of Kazmir, the A’s have filled a rotation spot with a veteran starter as they had hoped to do. That means they won’t necessarily continue to pursue a new deal for 40-year-old 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.
Colon returned from a suspension-shortened 2012 season to earn every bit of the $3 million the A’s gave him in a one-year contract. He served a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test, and the penalty took him into the start of the 2013 season.
The A’s reached agreement on a $600,000, one-year contract with right-hander Fernando Rodriguez. He was one of nine arbitration eligible players — and all were tendered contracts for the 2014 season, including first baseman Daric Barton. Barton is the team’s longest-tenured player and will provide infield depth.
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