"We explored that," Duquette said, "but it didn't look like there was a fit."
Duquette wouldn't offer specifics, but according to multiple industry sources, the Orioles balked at a four-year proposal in the $45-50 million range.
No surprise that Johnson was traded following that discussion. If $11 million for a closer is too much for the Orioles to stomach, then $12 million per season over four years was never going to happen. Considering that a four-year deal to Johnson or any other relief pitcher would have likely resulted in me vomiting into the most convenient receptacle, it's for the better that those talks did not get any farther.
This is not to say that Johnson's agent was wrong to ask for that contract. If that's what he thinks someone might eventually pay Johnson, then more power to him. He might have thought that the Orioles would find it worthwhile to have Johnson and cost certainty concerning him.
The era of the expensive "proven" closer is passing, but it only takes one team to keep it alive, like when the Phillies shelled out big bucks to Jonathan Papelbon. Johnson will probably find a multi-year deal somewhere after becoming a free agent. It'd be a surprise to see him get three years or a $12 million average annual value. He's younger than a pitcher like Joe Nathan, though, and if he has a third straight successful season in 2014, he could be a sought-after player on the market.
Johnson saved 101 games for the Orioles over the past two seasons with a 2.72 ERA and 1.151 WHIP. That's not Mariano Rivera territory, but it's a respectable two-year stretch. Relievers are and always will be volatile. Being locked up with Johnson or anyone else for that price for that long would not be good.
Industry analysts seem to agree that Johnson being traded to the Athletics was essentially a non-tender by another name. There is little expectation of much return from Jemile Weeks. Still, that's more than the Orioles would have gotten from just non-tendering him, and this way they controlled what team he ended up with, for one year at least.
In Duquette's eyes, it was time for the team to move on, and so they did.
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