The Orioles want to clear payroll, and aren't particularly picky about how they do it, whether it's with a potential huge trade involving Matt Wieters, or simply by shipping off closer Jim Johnson before he gets expensive through arbitration. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the O's are pushing hard at the latter at the moment, and -- you guessed it -- the Dodgers are in the mix.
There's no truth to the rumor that the Orioles started the conversation out by asking if the Dodgers felt like adding another eight-figure player to their payroll, but at this point, it feels like this would be as effective a negotiating strategy as any. The Dodgers have already committed $180 million to their 2014 team, and that doesn't count arbitration-eligible players, pre-arb players, or any further acquisitions. The luxury tax threshold is $189 million, and the Dodgers will blow by that, with or without Johnson. At that point, if they don't mind paying the tax, there's little reason to avoid getting him if the price in prospects is tolerable.
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Johnson will be a free agent after 2014, so it's a one-year commitment, even if it's expensive in terms of dollars. While he doesn't miss a ton of bats, it's hard to deny Johnson's production, as he's posted a 2.70 ERA over his last three seasons and 230 innings for the Orioles, in a more difficult park for pitchers than Chavez Ravine, while also in a far more difficult division. The Dodgers already have Kenley Jansen as their stopper, but Johnson could slot in as a setup man and injury insurance, helping bridge between what's looking to be a productive rotation and Jansen in the ninth.
It all comes down to the price: if Johnson is going to bring back a bevy of prospects, then the Dodgers might want to find other uses for their money, endless as it is, because that's not the only price for relief help. The relief market is going to be expensive either way, though, so if the Dodgers can acquire Johnson from the Orioles without giving up major pieces, solely because they're the ones willing to eat every penny of Johnson's eventual arbitration payout, then it makes a lot of sense for Los Angeles.
As for the Orioles, their bullpen already took a step back in 2013 compared to their successful 2012, in which the club made the playoffs in large part due to the fantastic work of Johnson and Co. Losing Johnson won't help the Orioles in an already competitive AL East, but if it helps them make other moves thanks to freeing up a significant chunk of change, and it brings back something useful, it could certainly work out for them, too, even if it's a deal that seems to be happening a year later than it should.