BALTIMORE -- The Orioles made their first big move of the winter late Monday night, trading All-Star closer Jim Johnson to the Athletics in exchange for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named.
The deal comes on the heels of a frenzy of Johnson trade rumors earlier in the day, as Baltimore was aggressively shopping the arbitration-eligible right-hander given that his second consecutive 50-save season could have resulted in a salary around $10 million in 2014.
"These trades are difficult decisions, but sometimes you have to try to reallocate resources so that the club can be strong in all the areas it needs to be competitive," Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations, said of the move, which frees salary for the Orioles to be aggressive elsewhere in free agency. "That's what the club is trying to address with this trade.
"Weeks is a talented player, versatile in several areas, a good basestealer with good on-base [percentage], especially against right-handed pitching. … Jim Johnson has been with the Orioles his whole career, and we appreciate the work he's done. He came up through the system, and we want to wish him a lot of luck and opportunity."
Johnson led the Majors in saves over the past two seasons, with 101, and he converted 50 of 59 opportunities in 2013, but the nine blown saves made him the subject of fan ire in the second half of last season. An All-Star in 2012, he went 18-26 with a 3.11 ERA in six seasons with the Orioles and was the second-longest-tenured active player -- behind Nick Markakis -- as well as a clubhouse leader.
Duquette, who spoke with Johnson after the trade was made, said that it's always a difficult to make these trades and thanked Johnson for his diligence over the past few years.
As for who will close for the Orioles, the organization will continue to look externally, although Duquette didn't rule out promoting a current member of the bullpen, similar to what they did with Johnson, who took over the ninth-inning duties full time at the end of 2011.
In Weeks the Orioles get a former first-round selection -- by the A's in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft -- and a versatile infielder who could help fill the hole at second base. Weeks played in just eight games for Oakland in 2013 but hit .271 with 19 doubles, 10 triples and 40 RBIs in 130 games for Triple-A Sacramento. He was also tied for the team lead, with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Weeks had a stellar rookie season in 2011, batting .303 with 26 doubles and 36 RBIs in 97 games for the A's, and he's capable of serving as a shortstop, center fielder and designated hitter if need be.
In addition to rotation help, the Orioles are in need of a DH, left fielder and second baseman, and the trade helps give them some breathing room to compete for free agents.
"The personal part of it is tough, because Jimmy was originally drafted and signed into the organization and solely played for the Orioles, and that makes it difficult," Duquette said. "But the way these things work, a lot of times it's about resource allocation. Jimmy deserves a lot of credit [for the team's success], he did a nice job for the Orioles and gave his best over the course of his career."
Baltimore, which agreed to contracts with outfielders Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce on Monday, tendered deals to their other six arbitration-eligible players: Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris, Troy Patton, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.