The A’s dealt closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox on Wednesday evening as part of a five-player swap. The trade has all sorts of implications, many of which we’ll analyze over the next few months leading into the start of spring training. But let’s start simple, with a look at the back end of the Oakland bullpen.
A’s assistant GM David Forst told Jane Lee of MLB.com soon after the Bailey trade was officially announced that there are three primary candidates for the club’s opening at closer: Grant Balfour, Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine. They’ll duke it out in camp until a winner emerges.
Balfour, a native of Australia, has registered a 2.38 ERA since the start of the 2010 season and boasts a cool 9.9 career K/9. He seems like the probable front-runner for the ninth-inning job, given that he’d make for the most logical trade chip come July. The A’s are trying to get younger — trying to build a roster that will be competitive by the time they move into a new ballpark. Balfour is 33 years old and is owed $4 million in 2012.
De Los Santos has a sizzling fastball that averaged just under 96 mph this past year, but he’s only 25 years old and has just one year of major league service under his belt. The A’s can build around him. Devine also throws hard, but he’s amassed only 23 innings since the end of the 2008 campaign due to elbow problems.
If De Los Santos proves ready this spring or if Devine builds trust through good health, perhaps one of those two will get the nod. But padding Balfour’s trade value with a decent saves total might be the best route.