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Balfour Option Exercised; Drew Option Declined

October 29, 2012

The A’s had two options to deal with and did so today exercising the option for Grant Balfour while declining their option on late season acquisition Stephen Drew. Balfour is set to be paid $4.5M in 2013, which is a steal for a guy who became a solid closer in a shutdown back end of the A’s bullpen. This year in particular he was incredible pitching in the final five games of the season recording saves in four of the five matchups to lead the A’s to their division title. At 1.5 WAR this year he was worth about $6.5M in salary, so the $4.5M would be steal, he was worth $2.1M in 2011, so the average performance makes his $4.5 reasonable and an automatic decision for Billy Beane.

Balfour who has been both set up guy and closer for the A’s has pitched in 137 contests for the A’s over the past two seasons, posting a 2.50 ERA and 3.36 FIP in 136 2/3 innings of 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9 baseball. He has a low BABIP at just .215 and a high strand rate at 81.9% but I think to a degree the latter is proof of Balfour’s ability to work out of jams. In his Athletics career he has had 69 shutdowns to just 14 meltdowns, indicative of his dominance in the bullpen. In 2012, Balfour pitched 74 2/3 innings, allowing 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 0.5 HR/9 with a 2.53 ERA and 3.03 FIP. For those counting in 2012 he led the A’s with 24 saves.

The Balfour decision was the epitome of automatic, less so was the decision regarding Drew but I was surprised nonetheless to see his option declined. Yes, the cost at $10M for 2013 was startlingly high, but the A’s had just traded their other shortstop Cliff Pennington to the Diamondbacks, and Drew has been an exceptional ballplayer before. The reason, I didn’t mind the overpay is realistically Drew might be the best option for any team in baseball seeking shortstop help and so the overpay might just be necessary given the market. This year after coming to Oakland in August, he played in 32 games getting 172 plate appearances and sporting a .250/.326/.382 slash line with a wOBA of .310 and wRC+ of 97 with five dingers. In 21 plate appearances in the postseason Drew hit .211/.286/.316 with two doubles. The A’s did not give up very much to get Drew, and there are indications that the A’s want him back just not at $10M for 2013, so it’ll be interesting to see the market that develops for him and how Oakland fits in there. He is represented by Scott Boras which immediately does not seem to look favorable for the A’s, but never say never. Without Drew it is unclear what the A’s would do at shortstop as it seems like Adam Rosales would be penciled in as the starter and he seems a possible non-tender candidate himself.

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