NEW YORK -- Just over one-third of the way through the season, it appears the A's are willing to cut ties with former closer Jim Johnson.
With Johnson relegated to the middle of the bullpen, the A's have been shopping him around to multiple big league clubs, first reported by Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports, who added the A's almost had a deal to send Johnson to Miami before the Marlins traded with Pittsburgh for Bryan Morris.
To get a trade done, the A's apparently are willing to eat most of the remaining salary owed Johnson, who is being paid $10 million this year by Oakland, his first year on the West Coast after back-to-back 50-save seasons for Baltimore the last two seasons. Asked about it before Wednesday's game in Yankee Stadium against New York, Johnson said "I don't know anything about it'' and indicated he was just thinking about Wednesday's game against the Yankees.
He was acquired in December in trade with Baltimore for infielder Jemile Weeks and catcher David Freitas. Weeks is back at Triple-A Norfolk after going 3-for-11 in a 10-day stay in early May with Baltimore. Freitas is at Double-A Bowie.
Johnson's season of travail began on opening night when he gave up the game's only two runs in the ninth inning of a 2-0 loss to Cleveland. In his first five games he had two losses and a blown save to go with an 18.90 ERA.
He followed that with an eight-game stretch in which he seemed to recover, throwing 101/3 innings of scoreless relief and working his way back into the closing picture by bringing his ERA down to 4.61. Since then, however, he's allowed nine runs in nine games, his ERA is up to 6.55 and the A's, without answers to the problem, seem to have run out of patience.
Johnson actually has been rather effective on the road with a 3-0 record and 1.98 ERA, but at the Coliseum it's been one nightmare after another with an 0-2 record and 14.04 ERA.
Manager Bob Melvin said the club is "trying to stay proactive'' with the center fielder's health issues.
"He's continuing to grind through this thing,'' Melvin said. "He's a pretty tough guy; he's been playing with this thing for a while. There are certain days you need to give him a day off, and I felt today was the day.''
"It's not an issue where you're going to DH him,'' Melvin said. "so we just monitor it and as long as he's comfortable swinging and it's not affecting what he's doing swing-wise too much, then it's just one of those things you play with.''
"I would say within the last three weeks or so he's been the best that we've seen defensively,'' Melvin said. "It seems like his range is better. He's certainly making some stronger throws from the hole at shortstop.
"He does take his defensive very seriously. He works at it every day. He has a routine, just like he has does offensively. It's starting to pay dividends for him.''