The LA Angels made a move in the beginning of December that went largely unnoticed by most fans and baseball writers. The Angels acquired veteran reliever Jim Johnson from the Atlanta Braves for some spare parts.
The move was significant for the LA Angels for two reasons. The team was able to get some additional International money to throw at Shohei Ohtani. It also gave the Angels some much needed bullpen depth, and maybe even a pitcher with closer potential.
Jim Johnson was once one of the best closers in baseball especially after the 2012 and 2013 seasons that saw Johnson save 101 out 113 games. Johnson posted a 5-9 record with an ERA around 2.70 over those two seasons. However, Johnson has not been able to recapture his form from those two seasons.
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Jim Johnson Another Eppler Diamond In The Rough?
As he has done before many times before, Angels general manager Billy Eppler took a small risk and traded for the 34 year old right-hander. Now the trade as was mentioned before was also used to get more International money to lure Shohei Ohtani to Anaheim. However, Eppler also got Johnson to fill a void left by the departure of Yusmeiro Petit and most likely Bud Norris (Norris is a free agent, but the Angels have not pursued re-signing him).
The question now becomes how do the Angels plan on using Jim Johnson. That question will most likely be answered during Spring Training, and will depend largely on how well Johnson performs during the exhibition season. This is similar to last season and the way the Angels really didn’t know exactly what Norris and Petit’s roles were until the end of Spring Training. The roles ended up changing after a flurry of injuries to members of the Angels bullpen in the first month of the season thrust Petit into a set-up role and Norris into the closer’s role for most of the season.
Can Jim Johnson fill the closer role in 2018?
The answer will depend largely on not only the effectiveness of Jim Johnson, but on the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of other members of the Angels bullpen such as Cam Bedrosian, Blake Parker, and Kenyan Middleton. All three of these pitchers have closer stuff, but can they put it altogether and show consistency is the big question. Johnson also falls into this category as well, the difference is he has the experience in this role that the other three do not.
In their careers Bedrosian, Parker, and Middleton have saved a total of 20 games combined in their careers and Johnson has surpassed that number four different seasons and has a total of 176 career saves.
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The Angels could also go outside the organization and pursue a free agent closer as well. However, with the asking price closers seem to be going for recently it will not be likely that the Angels will go that route.
If Johnson does not end up winning the closer job he could find himself anywhere from a 6th inning man through a set-up man job. Good luck Jim and welcome to Anaheim.