AL East Links: Balfour, Price, Drew, BoSox

Grant Balfour is no longer the Rays‘ closer, as manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that his team is moving to a closer committee.  The demotion comes as no surprise following Balfour’s rough performance on Sunday, when he allowed the Mariners to score five runs in the ninth inning.  Balfour has struggled badly this season, posting a 6.46 ERA and recording almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over 23 2/3 innings of work.  The 36-year-old signed a two-year, $12MM free agent contract with Tampa in the offseason.  If you have Balfour on a fantasy team, stay tuned to @CloserNews (MLBTR’s save-centric sister Twitter account) to keep tabs on the Rays’ bullpen and other late-game situations throughout baseball.

Here’s some more from the AL East…

  • The Rays could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris looks at some of the club’s veteran pieces with a particular focus on David Price.  While Tampa Bay will rightly seek a big prospect haul for Price, Sarris notes the difficulty in finding a contender (especially outside the AL East) who has the necessary minor league depth to swing a trade.  Sarris also notes that a fire sale seems unlikely, as the Rays will still look to contend in 2015.
  • Peter Gammons discussed several Red Sox topics in an interview on the Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning (WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan has a partial transcript).  While Gammons doesn’t think the Red Sox regret signing the struggling Stephen Drew, “there are so many political angles at play here that you’ve just got to wonder, ‘€˜What are they going to be a year from now?”  Gammons believes the Boston media’s criticisms of Xander Bogaerts‘ ability to play short pressured the club to re-sign Drew, whereas Gammons felt the Red Sox should’ve acquired an outfielder instead.
  • Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox becoming major sellers if they fall out of the race because they want pitchers like Jon Lester and John Lackey back in 2015 and also “just because of the nature of the Boston fans and because of the nature of the market and because of NESN.”  A.J. Pierzynski could potentially become a trade chip if the Sox fell far enough out of a playoff spot, which would open the door for Christian Vasquez to get called up and gain some big league experience.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington won’t make moves for the sake of making moves, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes, as the current roster will have to prove its worth as a contender over the next six weeks to convince the front office to pursue upgrades.
  • Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette appeared on Middays With MFB today (again, tip of the cap to WEEI.com’s Conor Ryan) and said that trade talk around the league is slow since so many teams are still technically in contention.  “There aren’t many sellers, from what I can tell. Usually after the draft, which was just completed, teams will start calling around, but I only know that there’€™s just a couple of sellers right now….It’€™s going to be challenging to add to the team,” Duquette said.
  • The Yankees should look to shake up their struggling lineup by getting rid of Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano, Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog opines.  Since Derek Jeter won’t be moved down in the lineup due to his stature, Axisa suggests that Jeter actually become the leadoff hitter in order to have the Yankees’ best four hitters (Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Yangervis Solarte) all hit in a row.

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