The Balfour Rage dance, that has made the top of the 9th inning a major event at the Oakland Coliseum, will live to see atleast 1 more year. The A’s announced today that they were picking up the team option for the 3rd year of closer Grant Balfour‘s contract, the option is valued at $4.5 million. On the other hand they declined their half of the mutual option for SS Stephen Drew, valued at $10 million. Drew and Balfour, along with Jonny Gomes and Brandon McCarthy represent the free agent class for the A’s this offseason.
The move for Balfour wasn’t the slightest bit surprising, as Balfour took a strangle hold on the closer role late in the season and helped lead the A’s to the AL West crown. All told, Balfour was superb this year, notching 24 saves with a 2.53 ERA over a career high 74.2 innings. Balfour was the anchor for a very strong bullpen for the A’s this year, and his success as the team’s closer late in the season allowed every other reliever to slip into roles they were most comfortable in and able to achieve the highest success.
But Balfour’s value doesn’t stop with his pitching ability. His fiery attitude on the mound, often cursing at himself and the batter to get the adrenaline pumping, and his strong veteran presence in the bullpen was extremely valuable among the many younger pitchers. Balfour can lead by example, and his numbers show that example is at its finest.
Of course we are all thrilled to be able to get more arm and shoulder workouts next season whenever he comes in to “One” by Metallica. Trust me, having done it for the full duration, it’s harder than it looks and you feel the burn undoubtedly. It’s one of many things that makes going to a game in Oakland truly unique and I’m thrilled it will continue in 2013.
Meanwhile, the A’s are said to be continuing negotiations with Stephen Drew. The declining of his option came as no surprise, as the $10 million price tag was pretty steep. But with the trade of Cliff Pennington, it seemed like the likelihood of Drew returning had to be high or else Billy Beane wouldn’t have made that move. As Drew hits the open market as of 12:01 AM Saturday, the A’s better hope they can work out a deal with Drew or they run the risk of either severely downgrading the position or having to part with perhaps a young pitcher to acquire Drew’s replacement.
There are many names that have been tossed around, from Yunel Escobar to Elvis Andrus and everyone in between. But Drew seemed to fit in quite well in Oakland, and would provide major stability at the position. I would think a 3 year contract in the $20-24 million range, perhaps with an option year would be able to lock up Drew, but the x-factor of his representation by Scott Boras looms large. There’s no telling what Boras and Drew have in mind, only time will tell there.
As we wait for Saturday, the MLB Hot Stove is making that clicking sound as it tries to ignite, it’ll take a few more days before we see that flame, but once we do things are going to get real interesting real quickly.