A’s: Trading Jim Johnson remains high priority

The A's have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A's bullpen.

The A’s have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A’s bullpen.

There are 11 days before the trade deadline, and one of the top jobs for the A’s brass is to find a new home for reliever Jim Johnson.

Actually, it’s been something the A’s have wanted to do for a while now, but the A’s don’t want to eat the remainder of Johnson’s $10 million contract and Johnson has done little to entice other teams to go after him.

“They would prefer to move him before the trade deadline,’’ a source said of the A’s. “They’ve been trying. So far, nothing’s happening.’’

Johnson came to the A’s after back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles, but instead of being the closer to replace Grant Balfour, he hasn’t been able to get any level of his former consistency.

One of the best in the game in getting ground balls with his 94-mph sinker in 2012 and 2013, Johnson hasn’t been able to keep the ball down this year. With the solo homer he allowed to Chris Davis Saturday, he’s given up five bombs in 37 games. He gave up just five in twice as many games (74) last year.

Manager Bob Melvin has had to move Johnson to the end of the bullpen, which is why he pitched in the eighth inning of a game the A’s trailed by three runs Saturday. The Davis homer didn’t make a difference, other than to jack Johnson’s ERA up to 6.25.

Johnson has had a couple of spells where he’s pitched reasonably well, but when they are over, it’s ugly.

He had a nine-game stretch in which he’d had a 2.19 ERA, now has followed it with four games in which he’s allowed eight runs in 4.1 innings, a 16.62 ERA. He didn’t allow a run from April 11-May 4, then had a 9.72 ERA for the rest of May.

Asked how he was feeling Sunday, Johnson didn’t have any answers.

“I’m good,’’ he said. “Nothing to report.’’

It’s difficult to see the A’s going much longer with Johnson at the end of the bullpen. For one thing, that’s the spot generally given to someone who can pitch several innings or more without strain if needed early in a game. Johnson, more of a one-inning guy, is not that.

When the A’s needed a long reliever Saturday with Hammel ineffective, they turned first to Dan Otero, then used up four more relievers in a game that wasn’t particularly close.

Oakland has two starters currently in the minor leagues who have pitched well in Oakland this season in Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone, and both are better suited to the long role than Johnson.

“There’s really not much to talk about right now,’’ Johnson said.

Maybe not. But there could be soon.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.