Grant Balfour Rumors
Older ballplayers are showing a lot of life so far this season, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Veterans Paul Konerko, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Jamie Moyer have all looked sharp in the month of April. Ortiz lost 25 pounds to get himself into shape for this season and plans to keep up the hard work as he hopes to play for another two seasons. Here's more from Cafardo..
- The Angels have inquired on A’s pitcher Grant Balfour and he is becoming one of the more sought-after bullpen pieces. The Halos have also shown interest in Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates and the Mariners' Brandon League, but Balfour seems the most logical.
- If the Twins don’t turn things around by the trade deadline, Carl Pavano will be a highly sought-after pitcher. The right-hander is earning $8.5MM in the final year of his contract and has limited no-trade protection. Jason Marquis, Matt Capps, and Francisco Liriano could also be used as chips to land prospects.
- Teams probably have their eye on Astros right-hander Brett Myers. Many teams, such as the Angels and Red Sox, could use the 31-year-old’s arm right now. He has also shown that he can pitch in a big market with his time in Philadelphia.
- If Tigers outfielder Delmon Young is convicted of a hate crime, it will be interesting to see whether the the club void his contract. They would be within their rights to do so under the collective bargaining agreement. The 26-year-old earns $6.75MM this year and can become a free agent after the season.
- The A's are a good bet to land Brandon Inge.
- Most baseball people feel there’s no way the Red Sox let Aaron Cook hit the open market by not calling him up May 1. The 33-year-old will earn the prorated portion of $1.5MM if he is called up to the majors.
The Athletics are playing respectably right now, but if the season unfolds as expected and the Rangers and Angels distance themselves from the A's and Mariners by midsummer, Billy Beane will be fielding many calls from rival GMs interested in acquiring his players. Kurt Suzuki, Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon should prepare themselves for a summer in the rumor mill, but right-hander Grant Balfour may draw the most interest of all.
Some teams are already short on relief pitching and their need will only intensify by the time the July 31st trade deadline approaches. Balfour will be an appealing commodity since he’s affordable, effective and durable. Affordable, because he'll earn just $4MM in 2012 (his contract includes a $4.5MM club option for 2013 with a $350K buyout). Effective, as demonstrated by his 2.77 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 since 2008. And durable, since he's made at least 50 appearances per season during that same span.
Teams inquired on Balfour this past offseason, and the 34-year-old native of Australia has done nothing to discourage their interest in the early going of the 2012 season (he has a 0.90 ERA in a league-leading nine appearances). Bullpen issues have already surfaced in places such as Boston, Tampa Bay and Anaheim. Even if those pitching staffs recover, other clubs will have interest in Balfour-like pitchers.
It’s unusual for teams to complete significant trades before the amateur draft takes place in June, but the A’s might part with Balfour relatively early if another team offers enough in return. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney called Balfour “the best reliever you could trade for today,” implying he’s available (Twitter link).
If the A’s listen to offers for Balfour now, expect them to demand a significant return -- perhaps a controllable player capable of making an impact at the Major League level plus supplementary pieces. If teams balk at the asking price, Beane can simply wait until July when he'll have the chance to obtain value from a team in serious need of relief help.
Between the Angels' big signings, the Rangers winning the Yu Darvish bidding, the Athletics' rebuilding, the Mariners' dabbling in the Prince Fielder derby and even the news that the Astros are coming in 2013, no division has generated more news than the AL West this offseason. Here's the latest...
- Albert Pujols will earn base salaries of $12MM in 2012 and $16MM in 2013, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Pujols' 10-year, $254MM contract with the Angels was backloaded so the Halos could afford to sign C.J. Wilson. As a result, Pujols will receive more than $30MM per year in the latter years of his deal. The contract's total value could be worth as much as $265MM should Pujols reach various incentive and milestone bonuses.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com names the contract between Pujols and the Angels as the transaction of the year. The trade that sent Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski to St. Louis for Colby Rasmus gets an honorable mention, as does the Tigers' trade for Doug Fister and the Phillies' trade for Hunter Pence.
- Athletics right-hander Grant Balfour is receiving trade interest, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Australian has a 2.85 ERA and 266 strikeouts in 243 innings over the last four seasons and, if he remains with the A's, is a candidate to replace Andrew Bailey as Oakland's closer in 2012.
- The Rangers have re-signed Matt Kata to a minor league deal, reports Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The infielder spent last year with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, posting an .832 OPS in 447 plate appearances. Kata has a career line of .239/.290/.370 in parts of five Major League seasons and last appeared in the majors with the Astros in 2009.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post
- A's people mention the Dan Haren deal as a point of reference for Gio Gonzalez trade talks, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The A's obtained Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson for Haren, so it's clear they'll be looking for top prospects in any deal involving the 26-year-old Gonzalez. Andrew Bailey is "more available" than Gonzalez, according to Slusser, but the A's aren't in a rush to make a move despite interest in both pitchers.
- Slusser suggests the A's could also trade Grant Balfour or Brian Fuentes.
- Kurt Suzuki's trade value isn't particularly high, so the backstop may stay put in Oakland, Slusser writes.
- Free agent left-hander Darren Oliver told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that re-signing with the Rangers would be his “first choice, no doubt.” The Rangers will be looking to add lefty relievers this offseason.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest that he's realistic about re-signing C.J. Wilson, though he hasn't ruled the possibility out (Twitter link).
- Click here to read about Joe Nathan’s deal with the Rangers and here for the latest on the Angels.
The Diamondbacks are likely to come away with a reliever today; here's the latest...
- Arizona is closing in on acquiring a reliever, tweets MLB.com's Steve Gilbert.
- The D'Backs are talking to the A's about reliever Brad Ziegler, tweets Olney. The 31-year-old sidearmer is under team control through 2014.
- The D'Backs have taken a very close look at Oakland's Grant Balfour, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. The 33-year-old Australian has about $5.6MM left on his contract through next year if his club option for '13 is declined.
Now that Carlos Beltran is heading to the defending World Champions, last year’s American League pennant winner can focus its attention elsewhere. The Rangers, who showed some interest in Beltran before the Giants agreed to acquire him, continue to pursue relievers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
They are talking to the Padres about Heath Bell and Mike Adams, who are among the most highly coveted relievers available. They are also interested in Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey of the A’s, though Bailey is a “distinct longshot,” in Rosenthal’s estimation.
Incoming Astros owner Jim Crane has ordered a decrease in payroll from $76MM to $60MM, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here’s the latest on Houston’s deadline plans and other notes from around MLB:
- The Astros are looking for at least three pieces for Hunter Pence. They’d probably demand young, MLB-ready talent, so a deal appears unlikely.
- Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers harder than Pence
- Padres GM Jed Hoyer told Heyman that he’d have to be “blown away” to trade Mike Adams and that he’d prefer to keep the setup man.
- The Rangers are in talks with the Padres about Heath Bell, who is also drawing interest from the Cardinals, Angels and Reds.
- No one has called the A’s about Hideki Matsui and Oakland isn’t looking to trade Grant Balfour.
- The A’s are taking calls on Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow.
- The Yankees’ wish list includes a right-handed bat along with a lefty reliever and a starter. Perhaps the newly-signed Marcus Thames will help the Yankees at some point in 2011.
ESPN's Buster Olney outlined plans for National League teams heading into the trade deadline yesterday, and today he follows up with the American League in an Insider-only column that comes highly recommended. Here's a brief recap...
- The Mark Ellis trade could just be the first domino that falls for the Athletics. Other veterans like Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, and Grant Balfour could follow him out the door.
- The Twins aren't as willing to trade now as they were a few weeks ago, and the big question they have to ask themselves is if eating a chunk of the $5.5MM left on Michael Cuddyer's contract is worth it to trade him.
- We've heard this before, but B.J. Upton and Kyle Farnsworth of the Rays figure to draw interest.
- The Red Sox and Angels don't have a lot of financial flexiblity and are more likely to target smaller pieces.
- Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, and Wilson Betemit are all affordable and reasonably productive, but Olney notes that the Royals might want to keep some veterans around so the youngsters don't get pounded.
- The Indians and Mariners will not blow up their rebuild processes despite their surprising runs at contention. Erik Bedard's injury took away Seattle's best chip.
- Poor seasons from Alex Rios and Adam Dunn make it difficult for the White Sox to do anything. They need those two to get back on track more than anything.
- The Yankees are convinced their internal pitching options are better than what's available on the market right now. A Rafael Soriano setback would put them in the reliever market.
- It's all about right-handed relief pitching for the Rangers, who will have plenty of options to choose from. The Blue Jays have lots of bullpen help to deal.
- The Tigers are asking around about pitching, specifically left-handers.
- The Orioles are having an internal debate about whether or not to trade Jeremy Guthrie, but they are expected to at least listen to offers.
Today the Diamondbacks purchased the contract of Wily Mo Pena with the aim of employing him in the middle of their order as a designated hitter during the AL leg of their interleague schedule. The D'Backs had open spots on the 40-man roster for Pena, who hasn't played in the bigs since '08 but has a .363/.439/.726 line with 21 home runs in 271 Triple-A plate appearances. Today's links...
- Braves GM Frank Wren spoke to Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the state of the trade market, saying teams are "starting to reach out and talk to each other." He added that they "talked to a number of clubs about where they think they’re going to be going at the trade deadline, but that’s even somewhat nebulous on a lot of clubs."
- Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times explored the idea of the Mariners trading either Jason Vargas or Doug Fister for offensive help and tried to figure out what a realistic return would be.
- In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney mentions that Grant Balfour of the Athletics is among the relievers expected to be available this summer. He speculates that the Rangers could be a fit.
- Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal looked at how the Red Sox were about to snag Anthony Rizzo in the sixth round three years before he was a key piece in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.
- NPB has decided against pursuing changes to the posting system according to a Japanese report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. Reasons include the difficulty of changing things on MLB's side, as well as the potential for large posting fees offered by the current system.
- In the wake of Andrew Miller's return to the big leagues, WEEI.com's Alex Speier listed the seven pitchers in the last 15 years that reached the Majors the year they were drafted. It's not a pretty list.
Rival executives have wondered whether the Nationals will eventually shift top pick Anthony Rendon to second base, so ESPN.com’s Buster Olney constructs an impressive-looking 2013 Nationals lineup with Rendon at second and prospective free agent Prince Fielder at first base. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors:
- The Mariners wondered whether Safeco Field would limit Rendon’s offense, but they’re confident that their second overall selection, left-hander Danny Hultzen, will be a good fit in their home ballpark.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin confirmed to Olney that it’s possible (though not likely) that top pick Taylor Jungmann could help them this year.
- Some executives tell Olney that top Orioles pick Dylan Bundy is the greatest pure talent in the draft. He's certainly looking to get paid like an elite talent.
- Olney wonders if Grant Balfour could be dealt to the Rangers, who could use relief help.
- Teams like the Braves and Phillies are looking for offense, so Josh Willingham could become a target if the 27-34 Athletics do become sellers.