OAKLAND -- The A's remodeled their pitching staff at the cost of more than $32 million Monday, signing free-agent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and getting right-handed closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore in a trade that sent infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be determined to the Orioles.

Johnson has been the most successful closer in the game the last two seasons with 101 saves for Baltimore. Those 51- and 50-save seasons are projected to be worth $10 million-plus in arbitration.

After making $6.5 million this year, Johnson is eligible for arbitration this offseason before moving into free agency after 2014. The fact that his salary will soar will be all right with the A's if he can deliver for them the way he did for the Orioles.

The 30-year-old Johnson, who didn't become the closer until 2012, blew three saves that year. He came back in 2013 with nine blown saves and an ERA that went from 2.49 to 2.94, a clear, if minimal decline.

Oakland has been without a closer since deciding not to retain 35-year Grant Balfour, a free agent who was the club's saves leader the last two seasons.

Earlier in the day, the A's put together a two-year, $22 million contract for Kazmir, a deal that is final except for the mandatory physical exam.

Kazmir was once a rising star. In his first five seasons with Tampa Bay, he was capable of throwing 98 mph. Through the 2008 season he was 47-37 with a 3.61 ERA and seemed on the verge of stardom with the Rays.


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Then his fastball took a hike. He was traded to the Angels, and his numbers went south to the point where pitched just 12/3 innings in the big leagues in 2011-12. He revived his prospects in Cleveland this year, and now he's headed to Oakland, where he will be the oldest member of the starting rotation.

He's only 29. His arrival leaves no room at the table for Bartolo Colon. The 18-game winner, now 40, will pitch elsewhere in 2014.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was the A's leadoff hitter on Aug. 18 when the club faced Kazmir and beat him, likes the move.

"I remember in general his velocity being back and his changeup being more effective," Lowrie said. "He's always been a great fastball command and slider guy."

The Kazmir fastball has been more fiction than fact the last few years. He'd lost about 10 mph on it during his low times with the Angels, so much so that he spent most of 2011 pitching in an independent league with a grim 3-6 record and 5.34 ERA. He rediscovered his velocity after signing a minor league deal with Cleveland in 2012 and pitching for the Indians this year, going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA.

He is not all the way back, but with his fastball now an easy 93 mph that occasionally reaches 95 mph, his strikeouts are up and his walks are down.

He averaged just 2.7 walks and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings with the Indians. In the second half, his strikeouts jumped to 10.3 per nine innings while his walks decreased to 2.1.

When A's catcher John Jaso -- like Lowrie one of eight arbitration-eligible players who were tendered contracts for 2014 Monday -- was coming up in the Tampa Bay organization, Kazmir was at the top of his game, including 783 strikeouts in 723 innings with the Rays from 2004-2008.

"When I was with the Rays, what you'd hear is, 'Oh my God, that man is so nasty,' " Jaso said from his Southern California home. "He was something special then.—‰

Can he be something special again? Jaso thinks so.

"It's been good to see him bouncing back since the time when his velo (velocity) was down," Jaso said. "You see him dominating like he did when he was a really young pitcher. I think he's getting back to his usual self."

Kazmir's arrival underscores the belief that the club will look to trade another lefty, 2013 opening day starter Brett Anderson. While Anderson is four years younger, he's been injured repeatedly, and the A's seem unwilling to see if he can get healthy again.

Without Colon, the A's still have a crowded field competing for one of the five spots in the rotation. There are four right-handers who started for the A's in 2013 in Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray, plus Kazmir, Anderson and Tommy Milone throwing from the left side. Even a potential trade of Anderson leaves six starters for five spots.

  • Weeks, 26, was the A's starting second baseman as a rookie in 2011, but he struggled in 2012 and never got a chance to get meaningful at-bats in 2013 as a late-season call-up.

  • The A's started Monday with nine arbitration-eligible players on their roster and had to tender them contracts or make them free agents. They tendered eight of them -- Jaso, pitchers Jerry Blevins and Jesse Chavez, first basemen Daric Barton and Brandon Moss, Lowrie, and outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith.

    The one player who didn't get tendered a contract was Fernando Rodriguez, a right-handed pitcher who spent the season on the disabled list. He signed a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. The other eight all potentially face arbitration, but the A's generally strike deals before arbitration comes around.