It’s that time of year where you can really suspend belief for a tick and follow the wild goose wherever she may go. We call this rosterbation because it is basically a meaningless, yet fun way to play with your roster and the rosters of others to see if you can find any potential good fits. I generally try to get weird with it since we’re just throwing stuff against the wall to see which ideas take the longest to slide down. This piece by Joey Paws got the wheels churning and burning for one reason. The Orioles could use a stopgap SS until Manny Machado is ready to assume the position in at least two years. Let’s make no mistake, the Orioles are a few years off from realistically competing in the AL East. In the interim they would like to squeeze extra wins out, while helping their younger players get acclimated to the bigs. This would seem to indicate that they are looking for high-makeup/chemistry guys that can provide at least average production. They would prefer to go cheap if they can, but the Orioles have money to burn between now and the time their prospects that pan out start getting paid.
All of these lead me to believe that Jason Bartlett could be a great fit for the O’s. With the SS free agent market shallower than the entirety of the Polk County gene pool, Bartlett would give the Orioles a shortstop with a 1.5-2.0 WAR floor while being the consummate team player. Additionally, he can collect his last year of arbitration meaning that they will still be receiving a discount compared to a free agent and have the ability to either re-sign Bartlett to an extension covering the rest of the pre-Machado era or they can play the wait and see game throughout this year to either bring him back, trade him, or possibly take the picks after the season (hell, if Miguel Tejada is a type-A then Bartlett has to be in the ballpark).
So as your eyes are dropping shut, you’re probably thinking, “Well what could we get in return for this player that makes more sense on their team than on ours?” I propose we trade Jaybles for Jim Johnson, the 6’6″, 230 pound, 27 year-old fireballer that has had mixed success so far for the Orioles. Though his BAbip was an incredibly high .365 last year, he still maintained a 3.42 ERA/3.08 FIP/3.18 xFIP/4.14 tERA while increasing his strikeouts and decreasing his walks.
For his career, Johnson has gotten 54% groundballs, while performing better against righties (3.71/3.85 FIP/xFIP against righties, while 4.06/4.67 against lefties). With the hopeful return of J.P. Howell and the possible re-signing of Randy Choate and Jake McGee’s promotion, the Rays should be stocked with lefties in the pen. Losing both Balfour and Wheeler would leave them without a guy that can dominate righties. Johnson fills that hole while still having room for growth as it looks like he’s been going to his change/curve more over the last season. The O’s were pretty nervous about his elbow last year, sitting him during the middle of the season due to a strained UCL, but the rest and rehab appeared to stave off Tommy John surgery for the time-being. The beautiful part about this is that he’s still arb-eligible for this upcoming season and two more. The Orioles may not want to run the risk of him blowing out that elbow so they may see a non-prospect, place-holder like Jason Bartlett as providing more value over one season than a potential injury-risk like Johnson over three years. For the Rays, it’s a win-win either way. Either he stays healthy and nails down a key role in the pen shutting down righties or finding his change and becoming a true setup man that can get both kinds of batters OR he gets hurt, has surgery, and we still have him for peanuts once we see the team a little more to the right of the win-curve in a season or two. The reason the Rays have been successful in the pen is because instead of re-signing guys like Grant Balfour for bigger money, they go out and find the next Grant Balfour. Jim Johnson is that guy, in my opinion, and I would love to see a straight up trade involving these two men.