Who will close next season in Oakland?

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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.

Report: Jose Altuve underwent right knee surgery on Friday

Jose Altuve
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Astros’ star second baseman José Altuve underwent surgery on his right knee, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Neither the specifics of the surgery nor a concrete timetable for the infielder’s recovery have been officially confirmed by the club yet.

Altuve, 28, suffered the injury in July after he jammed his knee on a close play at third base. Even after he completed an initial 3.5-week stint on the 10-day disabled list, chronic knee pain continued to dog him in the months that followed. As manager A.J. Hinch told reporters on Thursday, he would have held the second baseman out of the lineup under any other circumstances, but instead chose to commend Altuve for showing up and pushing through the pain as the Astros tried for a repeat championship title this postseason.

Per McTaggart, the Astros expect Altuve to make a full recovery by spring. The perennial All-Star infielder finished his 2018 run with a .316/.386/.451 batting line, 13 home runs, and an .837 OPS through 599 plate appearances. He fared slightly worse during Houston’s ALDS and ALCS campaigns, slashing .265/.324/.412 with three extra-base hits over 37 PA. The Astros were eliminated by the Red Sox during Thursday’s 4-1 loss in ALCS Game 5.