Jim Johnson A’s: Oakland Trade is Upgrade for Closer’s Fantasy Value


Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics capped off a busy Monday with a move first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Now, conventional fantasy baseball strategy says that you don’t overpay for saves. But we’re dealing with a guy who’s saved more than 100 games over the last two seasons for the Baltimore Orioles, so examining this move is certainly worth doing.

Last week, Will Meadows gave a strong take on Jim Johnson in comparing him to Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland. Ultimately, he concluded that Johnson is not in their class. I agreed with him then, and this move does not change that, but I also ranked those two guys as my top two closers heading into next season.

But one of the reason will cited in being hesitant to draft Johnson is the possibility that he’d be moving to a team that didn’t offer the run support of the Orioles, who were one of baseball’s best run scoring teams in 2013. So, now that we know where he’s going, how does that change?

  • Baltimore Orioles: 745 (5th in MLB)
  • Oakland Athletics: 767 (4th in MLB)

Not many teams would be an upgrade on Baltimore, but he found one. Even if you call the run support a wash (which over 162 games, it really is), we have to look at a few more things.

  1. I don’t need to cite anything (though I could), but Oakland is a significantly better place to pitch than Baltimore. You can probably count on one hand the number of parks that are better for hitters than Baltimore, and you wouldn’t need more than one to find a better place for pitchers than Oakland.
  2. Even with a revival over the last few years, the A’s have had slightly better regular seasons than the Orioles. As a matter of fact, the last time the Baltimore won more games than Oakland was 1998.

So, the situation he’s in would certainly appear to be better in Oakland. As a matter of fact, I’ll say that there’s nothing really negative about this move for Johnson.

Now, that doesn’t make Johnson a Top-5 closer next year. First off, the list of top closers would appear to be very strong. In the rankings (cited above), I had him ranked No. 10, which spoke more to the guys ahead of Johnson than it did any hesitation I have in his numbers.

Second, as Will wrote, the second half of Johnson’s 2013 was rocky in many ways. They should at least give you pause in spending a lot of auction money or using a high draft pick on him. There are other closing options out there and Johnson pitching to contact gives him a lower ceiling than many other closers have.

But with that said, this does help the value of Jim Johnson for 2014. Even if the Orioles offense is much better than the A’s in 2014, there is plenty to hang your hat on. Getting out of the AL East should do plenty of good, as should the change in ballparks. This trade is an upgrade for Johnson.