The Orioles are willing to listen to trade offers for closer Jim Johnson, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Baltimore is facing a massive payroll crunch this offseason, and Johnson's $10.8MM projected salary (per MLBTR's Matt Swartz) would seem to be a definite roadblock in their pursuit of top free agents to whom they've been linked, such as Carlos Beltran.
Johnson, 30, posted a 2.94 ERA this season with 7.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 58 percent ground-ball rate. His 50 saves led the American League and tied Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the Major League lead. Over the past two seasons, no pitcher has amassed more saves than Johnson's total of 101. That bloated saves total, however, is actually problematic for Baltimore, as it's the chief reason for his projected payday (as Swartz explained in Johnson's arbitration breakdown).
Olney recently profiled the Orioles' budget situation and spoke with other executives who felt that Johnson would be "the most painless cut" the team could make. The Orioles opened 2013 with a $92MM payroll and figure to be around that mark again in 2014. Spending nearly $11MM on their closer would seem to be a questionable allocation of their funds.
While an additional $11MM in 2014 may not cover the salary of a top free agent like Beltran, it would present the opportunity for a slightly backloaded contract, as Nick Markakis and his $15MM annual commitment will be off the books following the 2014 campaign.