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Orioles Complete Busy Day Of Trades, Acquire Kelly Johnson

August 30, 2014

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had a busy night Aug. 30.

In advance of the Aug. 31 trade deadline for players to be eligible for the postseason, Duquette swung a pair of deals for veteran position players, acquiring utility man Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox less than an hour after picking up outfielder Alejandro de Aza from the Chicago White Sox.

The Red Sox trade, which the Orioles announced just as they put the finishing touches on a 3-2 win Aug. 30, sent O's minor league infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Boston for Johnson and minor league infielder Michael Almanzar.

Orioles 2014: Kelly Johnson (headshot)

Johnson, 32, will be joining his third team of the 2014 season. He has batted .212/.290/.354/.644 with six home runs and 23 RBIs during 87 games, most of which he spent with the New York Yankees. The Yankees traded him to the Red Sox July 31 for Stephen Drew, and Johnson appeared in 10 games for Boston, going 4-for-25.

Johnson has spent nine years in the majors with six different teams, compiling a career batting line of .250/.332/.423/.755 with 130 home runs and 465 RBIs during 1,138 games. By joining the Birds, Johnson will have played for all five American League East teams; he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2011-12 and the Tampa Bay Rays in '13 before cycling through the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles this season.

"He's familiar with the American League East," Duquette said. "He's played for all the other teams but ours, and now he'll get a chance to play for ours. He gives us a little bit more depth."

In addition to his left-handed bat, Johnson's defensive versatility appealed to the Orioles. He has started games at first base, second base, third base, left field and right field, and has also served as a designated hitter.

"Kelly's well traveled, and he can play a couple different positions," Duquette said. "He's got some power and he can get on base and he can hit right-handed pitching. And that gives us some more options to help our ball club. You never know what's going to happen between now and the end of the season."

The O's also re-acquired Almanzar, 23, whom they selected from the Red Sox as a Rule 5 pick during the winter. Almanzar spent spring training with the Orioles, but the Birds placed him on the disabled list at the end of camp, and -- with no spot for him on the big league roster -- sent him back to Boston July 1 after he played nine rehab games in the Birds' system. This year, Almanzar is batting .280 with a .787 OPS during 48 games for Boston's Double-A affiliate, Portland.

"I am happy that we also got another shot at Michael Almanzar," Duquette said. "Michael showed good power in the spring, and he's a young right-handed hitting infielder. He's just 23 years old. So we have him back in the organization for the future."

In exchange, the O's gave up two infielders who spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Norfolk. Weeks, 27, batted .278 with a .776 OPS during 62 games for the Tides. The O's acquired him from Oakland in a Dec. 2, 2013 trade for closer Jim Johnson, but Weeks didn't play much of a role for the Birds. He appeared in three games with the big league club, as the Orioles apparently weren't sold on his defensive ability at second base.

De Jesus, 27, spent the entire 2014 season with Norfolk, batting .282 with a .747 OPS during 113 games. He'll be returning to the Red Sox organization, where he spent the 2012 and '13 seasons.

In acquiring Johnson and de Aza, Duquette was excited about the chance to add two veteran bench players to the Orioles' roster.

"This is what all the teams want to be doing," Duquette said. "They want to be adding to their ball club and still be in the pennant race in September. ... You need to have good depth to your player pool, and that's what these two trades were designed to do, to give us some added depth and two veteran left-handed hitters to help our ball club."

Manager Buck Showalter said he was looking forward to seeing how the new additions can help the team.

"It's something that Dan and I talk about and the coaching staff talks about," Showalter said. "How it fits, what it means as we go forward. What does it help us with, and how would you use them? I'm certainly not going to broadcast that right now, but I'll sit down and talk with some players tomorrow. They're excited about it, any time we get something that could help. ... I'll sit down with them, probably as a group, and kind of explain what's going on and how it affects our team, and how it affects some guys individually, if it does.

"I like the people we got, I like the people that are here, and it gives us some more depth and some more what-if as we go forward."

Both Duquette and Showalter were pleased that the Orioles had the minor league depth to make the trades.

"They're a testament to the player development and scouting," Showalter said. "Whether it's De Jesus or Jemile or [Mark] Blackmar or [Miguel] Chalas ... they look minor to a lot of people, but you've got to grind those things."

Said Duquette: "We have the players in our minor league system to be able to make these trades to add to the ball club in a pennant race. And that's a tribute to the good scouting from Gary Rajsich and Fred Ferreira and their crew, and good player development from Brian Graham. So we have players that we can trade, and we have players that we can bring up and help the team."

Duquette didn't close the door on the possibility of making another trade before the Aug. 31 deadline, but he hinted that the Orioles had filled their most pressing needs.

"We're going to continue to look around," Duquette said, "but we do have better balance now to our club with the addition of two left-handed hitters that have performed well in the American League. ... So we're getting a little bit better balance and filling out our ball club."

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