Hello, and I'd like to welcome myself back after an extended absence. I'm sure you all missed me. Maybe.
Much hay has been made about the A's focus on the bullpen, after an offseason relief shopping spree left them heavily invested in several well-known arms. Most notably, the A's acquired Jim Johnson in exchange for Jemile Weeks. This is the sort of trade the A's are known to avoid until now: taking an expensive bullpen piece in exchange for a young player who stands to provide some surplus value, even if he isn't an incredibly great player himself.
On a recent Fangraphs podcast (highly recommended if you don't already listen), Dave Cameron parroted a theory that others have made that actually makes sense to me. Beane acquired Johnson not just for his statistical similarity to Balfour, but also to limit saves that Doolittle and/or Cook might then accumulate without Johnson around. Those saves would have made Doolittle and/or Cook more expensive in their arbitration years.
Now, I'm not really a conspiracy theory sort of guy. But, at least this one makes sense from an investment standpoint. It is better to pay $10M to Johnson now in 2014 dollars than pay the equivalent or more extra in Doolittle's and/or Cook's salary in future dollars. This keeps both of those bullpen anchors in Oakland longer, and helps keep the A's competitive window open for longer. Plus, it would have been just as easy to name someone like Otero a closer and acquire an MiLB veteran or waiver wire arm, and there is some non-zero chance he would be just as good as Johnson. Otero himself is a prime example of someone like that, that Beane could have acquired on the cheap but did not.
What do you guys think? Was trading for Johnson a larger part of a Beane master plan, or simply a case of him improving the team where it made the most sense?
33 Days Until Opening Night