The Marlins raised some eyebrows by trading their Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 39 overall) to the Pirates last week in exchange for right-hander Bryan Morris and using the extra cash to sign Kevin Gregg. However, the team almost made an even larger acquisition, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, who reports that Miami nearly sent the pick to the A’s in exchange for fallen closer Jim Johnson.
Oakland was willing to make the deal, according to Rosenthal, and they were also willing to pay a chunk of the nearly $6.5MM remaining on Johnson’s salary, with Miami including another player and remaining on the hook for at least the $1.4MM total of the draft slot. Ultimately, however, the Marlins went a different route.
Rosenthal notes that the A’s aren’t shopping Johnson but were willing to move the right-hander when approached by the Marlins, who were “aggressively” pursuing bullpen help. The 30-year-old Johnson has disappointed in his first season with the A’s, who acquired him from the Orioles in the offseason.
After back-to-back 50-save seasons, Johnson has pitched to a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings and lost the closer’s job to Sean Doolittle. Johnson has seen his walk and strikeout rates trend in the wrong direction, but he’s also been plagued by a .390 BABIP. His ground-ball rate remains elite, and his velocity hasn’t declined, so the Marlins likely figured that he could rebound to something closer to his previous form with the O’s. Indeed, sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (3.65), xFIP (4.42) and SIERA (4.10) all feel that he’s been vastly better than his ERA indicates. A move to the National League likely would be of benefit as well.
Perhaps the Marlins felt that they’d prefer to save some money and take a chance on two relievers rather than one. They may have thought the player going back to Oakland in the proposed deal was too steep a price to pay in the end. Their ultimate line of thinking isn’t clear, but Rosenthal’s report does suggest that the 30-28 Marlins do feel they can compete even without the likes of Jose Fernandez in the rotation.