The Oakland Athletics have brought Jim Johnson on board for the 2014 season to replace Grant Balfour. They are paying him $10 million for one year to take on the 9th inning and save the day. Johnson is an outstanding pitcher, having saved 101 games for the Orioles in the last two seasons, a Major League best. But was this the right move for the Athletics?
Many thought that Sean Doolittle or Ryan Cook would take over at the closer position, but they are great setup pitchers and it would be nice to keep them there. They do have a pitcher that has great experience as a closer, however. That is Dan Otero. Otero is a former minor league closer. He proved in his 39 innings pitched that he has what it takes to close a game out. He had zero homeruns allowed in his entire time with the Athletics in 2013. He also posted an outstanding 1.38 ERA. Those are numbers you want to find in a closer.
Jim Johnson is a great closer, and the team should feel confident with him on the mound, but did the A’s really need to give up $10 million dollars to pitch the 9th when Otero is very qualified to do so himself? While the move may have added depth, there are plenty of other possibilities the organization could have done with those $10 million dollars? Beane is an expert and could have done a lot with $10 million.
Either way the move is done, and Beane is a genius who knows what he is doing. If he felt that bringing in Johnson was the best move then it must be. But what would the best move be beyond 2014?
That would be to let Otero take over as closer. Very rarely do hitters score on Otero. He could even take over as closer if Johnson begins to falter as early as this season. I don’t see the A’s keeping Johnson around past 2014 if Otero does a great this year. If he can keep up his performance from 2013, then he should get the promotion to closer, leaving money open to keep the great talent the A’s already have, such as extending Jed Lowrie’s contract in case Addison Russel doesn’t perform well in the big league’s. Or Lowrie could take over as permanent 2nd basemen and Russel play shortstop.
The Oakland A’s would be wise to let Johnson walk after the 2014 season and give the closer duties to Dan Otero. Otero has proven he would be a great closer and the A’s can get a proven closer at a bargain price for a few seasons before he would demand a contract such as Johnson’s. Dan Otero is the future closer for the Oakland Athletics. The only question is when he will be the closer, not if.