Grant Balfour Rumors
The A's announced that they exercised their club option for Grant Balfour and declined their side of Stephen Drew's mutual option (Twitter link). Balfour will earn $4.5MM to return to Oakland in 2013. Drew, whose option was valued at $10MM, will hit free agency and obtain a $1.35MM buyout.
Balfour appeared in 75 games for the A's this past season, spending much of the year as Bob Melvin's closer. The 34-year-old right-hander collected 24 saves, posting 8.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 74 2/3 innings.
Drew, 29, appeared in 39 regular season games for the A's following the midseason trade that sent him from Arizona to Oakland. The shortstop posted a combined batting line of .223/.309/.348 in 327 plate appearances between the two leagues. He projects as one of the top shortstops available in a free agent class that doesn't feature many impact infielders and could even be a fit in Oakland again. Drew will be free to sign with any team starting Saturday.
Athletics GM Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin met with reporters today to discuss Oakland’s remarkable 2012 season and look ahead toward the club’s offseason plans. Here are some highlights (all links go to Twitter):
- Melvin suggested the A’s are ready to discuss a new contract with Jonny Gomes, saying his situation is “a work in progress,” Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Gomes' one-year, $1MM contract expires following the World Series, but it sounds as though the Bay Area native could return for another year.
- Beane said he likes this team and wants it back in 2013, Lee reports. The A’s are interested in retaining potential free agents like Gomes and Brandon McCarthy if possible.
- Beane hinted that the A’s will exercise Grant Balfour’s contract option, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Some things are no-brainers," Beane said. Balfour's contract includes a $4.5MM club option for 2013 with a $350K buyout.
- Beane said he would be "absolutely baffled" if Melvin isn't named the AL Manager of the Year, Lee reports.
The Mets are interested in Jonathan Broxton and Grant Balfour as they look to improve their bullpen before the July 31st trade deadline. They're definitely showing interest in Broxton, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter), and Newsday's David Lennon says they're also targeting Balfour (Twitter link).
However, the Mets are not close on any deal involving a reliever, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported today (on Twitter). They remain in "wait-and-see" mode for now. Though the Mets' bullpen is in rough shape, they've convinced some doubters they're a dangerous club, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote earlier today.
Most of the top available starting pitchers currently play in the National League, but there’s still lots of trade talk in the AL this summer. Buster Olney provides updates on the junior circuit trade market in today’s column at ESPN.com. Here are some highlights:
- The Mariners won’t trade Felix Hernandez, but Kevin Millwood, Chone Figgins, Jason Vargas and Brandon League could be dealt.
- The Red Sox have focused on adding starting pitching. Some executives believe the Rangers will make a big play for the best starting pitchers available.
- Meanwhile, the White Sox have been asking around about relievers.
- Teams have called about Seth Smith, but the Athletics will keep him. However, Kurt Suzuki could be available and the A’s will listen to offers for Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour.
- The Indians figure to pursue right-handed bats and Carlos Quentin could be an option in Cleveland, Olney writes.
- The Blue Jays plan to assess their chances at the All-Star break, and some rival officials expect Toronto to sell.
- The Orioles need pitching, but Olney doesn’t expect the team to make a major addition. Similarly, the Twins figure to seek pitching in any midseason trades they consider.
- Here’s MLBTR’s recap of Olney’s look at the NL trade market.
The A's could be gearing up for a sale closer to the deadline, but for now Oakland sits at 37-40 as they enter tonight's game in Texas and may look to see how things play out. In the interim, the club would like to move left-hander Brian Fuentes. Here's the latest out of Oakland..
- In addition to Fuentes, the A's will also be willing to move Brandon McCarthy once he is healthy, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The right-hander has a 2.54 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 through 12 starts this season. However, Rosenthal notes that his injury concerns could require extra rest from which ever team may acquire him. Sources add that the A's are under no financial pressure to make moves.
- The A’s also are open to moving right-hander Grant Balfour, but will seek more in return than they would for McCarthy, Rosenthal writes. Balfour is under control for 2013 with a $4.5MM club option.
- A source also tells Rosenthal that outfielder/DH Seth Smith is unlikely to be traded. Smith makes just $2.415MM this season and is and under club control through 2014.
- Fuentes politely declined to comment when asked about trade rumors or whether he has requested a trade, tweets Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group.
At 5.21, the Mets have the worst bullpen ERA in baseball by three-tenths of a run. Closer Frank Francisco is out with an oblique injury and Bobby Parnell has taken over ninth inning responsibilities, leaving the setup work to Jon Rauch and Miguel Batista. Ken Davidoff of The New York Post writes that the club is looking for bullpen help outside the organization.
“It’s not too early to do the research,” said assistant GM John Ricco. “It’s probably too early to make a move, although each year there is several pre-emptive ones. For the seller more than the buyer.”
Ricco also indicated that sometimes “you try to catch lightning in a bottle,” using the team's 2006 acquisition of Guillermo Mota as an example. Mota pitched to 6.21 ERA in 34 games for the Indians before being sent to New York and posting a 1.00 ERA in 18 appearances that year.
GM Sandy Alderson told Davidoff that the club hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding payroll, but they are weary of trading top-shelf prospects for volatile relievers. Davidoff mentions that the Mets are likely to get involved in any trade talks for Brett Myers and Huston Street, and not to rule out Grant Balfour as well.
It’s still a little early for struggling teams to acknowledge to fans that it’s time to start looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes. As a result the trade market remains relatively quiet. Here are some of Olney’s notes on team needs and possible deals:
- The Red Sox are now focused on adding starting pitching.
- The Athletics are ready to talk trades now, so Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Bartolo Colon are available.
- General managers are impressed by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, just like everyone else. One GM told Olney Trout’s faster than Rickey Henderson. "He just rockets around the bases; you don't find players that skilled," the GM said. “They're all tooled-up, and they know how to play," another GM said in reference to the pair of young stars.
- Rival executives view Justin Morneau as a tremendously risky trade target because of his $14MM salary and history with concussions (Twitter link).
- Olney had more details on the trade market last night.
The new playoff system may or may not impact the number of buyers and sellers this summer, but there's one thing about the trade deadline that won't change: pitching will be in demand. It is every year and in all forms -- starters and relievers, right-handers and left-handers, aces and innings-eaters -- there's a market for all of them.
A popular target for clubs looking to add bullpen help is the proverbial "closer on a bad team." The Rangers were 14.5 games out when they traded Eric Gagne to the Red Sox in 2007 and the Nationals were 13.5 games out when they traded Matt Capps to the Twins in 2010, just for example. The upcoming free agent class is littered with closers, but two of them have seen their trade value drop because of poor performance in recent weeks.
Brandon League, Mariners
League saved 37 games and was an All-Star a year ago, but this season he's pitched to a 4.43 ERA with a 44.4% ground ball rate that is well below his career norm (60.3%). Manager Eric Wedge removed the 29-year-old right-hander from the closer's role following last night's blown save, already his fourth of the season. He told reporters (including Larry Larue of The News Tribune) they'll instead "match up with what we think works" in the ninth inning.
Grant Balfour, Athletics
Three poor performances (two blown saves) in late-April and early-May cost Balfour his job as closer, and now he's working the seventh inning in Oakland thanks to Ryan Cook's emergence. The 34-year-old veteran has a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings, though his strikeout (7.0 K/9) and walk (3.3 BB/9) rates are both trending in the wrong direction for the second straight season.
Both League and Balfour are scheduled to become free agents after this season, though Balfour's contract includes a $4.5MM club option ($350K buyout) for 2013. With pitchers like Jonathan Broxton, Huston Street, and Francisco Rodriguez providing quality rental bullpen help alternatives on the trade market, the Mariners and A's could be left with nothing to show for their free agent-to-be relievers.
Photo via US Presswire.
Links as the weekend comes to a close..
- A's reliever Grant Balfour is less than thrilled about losing his job as closer, writes Jeff Fletcher for MLB.com. Balfour has drawn considerable interest from teams around baseball this season and Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at what Balfour could net Oakland in a trade.
- Twins utility man Trevor Plouffe has been struggling as of late and could wind up as a roster casualty if things do not pick up, writes Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. Chris Parmelee is also struggling at the plate but has minor league options remaining, unlike Plouffe.
- Alyson Footer of the Astros (via Twitter) felt that the Cardinals dodged a financial bullet when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels.
Last offseason's Hot Stove was notable for the hefty contracts signed by the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but the abundance of closers in free agency was an interesting secondary arc. A few stoppers signed for big bucks, and if there were any takeaway, it was that many teams have not necessarily adopted a frugal philosophy with respect to bullpen spending.
The upcoming offseason's class of free-agent closers is pretty interesting, too, and several of its potential members have options for 2013. Here's a list of those pitchers and a very preliminary look at whether their options figure to be picked up:
- Matt Capps (2013 age: 29), $6MM club option with a $250K buyout: Capps' signing this offseason was maligned after he pitched poorly in 2011, but the Twins' bullpen was pretty barren, so it may have been a devil-you-know situation. He's pitching roughly the same so far this year, but the guess here is that if they were willing to bring him back after last year, they'll be willing to do so again. He could be a trade candidate, but I'm not sure there will be takers.
- Ryan Madson (32), $11MM mutual option with a $2.5MM buyout: The Reds will be on the hook for at least $2.5MM, so will they want to gamble an extra $8.5MM on a guy coming off Tommy John surgery? With Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall in the back of the Reds' bullpen, I think they'll pass.
- J.J. Putz (36), $6.5MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout: Putz is getting on in years, and his health is always a concern (including a DL stint during his brilliant 2011), but the right-hander is really good when he's on the mound. If he can get through this year relatively unscathed in terms of injury, which is no sure thing, I think the Diamondbacks will roll the dice, seeing as the penalty for snake eyes is relatively low.
- Joakim Soria (29), $8MM club option with a $750K buyout: Similar to the Reds and Madson, the Royals will have a tough decision to make with Soria coming off (a second) Tommy John surgery. They've been very reluctant to part with him via trade previously, so I'm thinking they'll pick up the option just to save face and see what he can yield -- either in terms of on-field contributions or perhaps a trade later in the season if he comes back healthy.
- Huston Street (29), $9MM mutual option with a $500K buyout if club declines: The Padres will likely look to trade Street before this year's deadline, so his recent injury development must make them a little nervous. He has plenty of time to get healthy before the deadline, though, and I'd expect the Friars to move hard to flip him. If they can't, they could always pick up the option and then look to trade him again next summer.
- Grant Balfour (35), $4.5MM club option with a $350K buyout: The A's will be shopping Balfour hard before the deadline, as he'll draw plenty of interest, as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently noted. Wherever he is, his option will look pretty attractive, with his durability and effectiveness probably trumping any concerns over his age.
- Rafael Soriano (33), $14MM player option or a $1.5MM buyout: Soriano is very likely to exercise this option, meaning the Yankees will almost certainly be paying this hefty tab in 2013. The temptation may be there for Soriano to decline and rake in another two- or three-year deal elsewhere on the market, but he can get one of those after 2013, assuming for health.