Wrapping up a 7-6 win over the Red Sox, Orioles closer Jim Johnson recorded his 50th save of the season, joining Craig Kimbrel as the only relievers to reach the 50-save echelon this season. For Johnson, it is the second consecutive year in which he has recorded at least 50 saves — he recorded 51 last year in helping his team into the ALDS, where they lost in five games to the Yankees.
Johnson joins Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera as the only relievers to have a pair of 50-save campaigns. No one has more. Only eight other relievers even have a one. Like Gagne, Johnson got his 50-save seasons consecutively.
Johnson had an up-and-down year. At times, he looked like the dominant closer that breathed new life into an Orioles team last year. At other times, like the two-week stretch in May in which he posted a 21.60 ERA in six appearances, he appeared to be throwing beach balls from 60 feet, six inches. But all’s well that ends well, as he ends the season with a sub-3.00 ERA, having converted 11 consecutive save opportunities.
Unlike last year, however, the rest of the bullpen was noticeably worse — about a half run per nine innings worse, in fact. Thus, the Orioles’ sterling 29-9 record in one-run games last year dropped to 19-31 this year. Thus, the 85-77 third-place Orioles will be watching the post-season from home.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.