A’s choosing between Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour for closer role

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A’s manager Bob Melvin revealed this morning that the closer battle is between left-hander Brian Fuentes and right-hander Grant Balfour.

Fuentes has far more closing experience, with 199 career saves and a league-high 48 saves for the Angels in 2009, but struggled when filling in for Andrew Bailey last season and famously quarreled with then-manager Bob Geren over his usage.

Balfour has more typical closer stuff and was excellent last season in a setup role, throwing 62 innings with a 2.47 ERA and 59/20 K/BB ratio, but the 33-year-old has never saved more than four games in a season.

Beyond the obvious on-field implications of choosing a closer there’s a decent chance the A’s will look to trade whichever reliever they allow to increase his perceived value by racking up saves.

Astros assistant GM Mike Elias reported to be next Orioles general manager

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Astros assistant GM Mike Elias will be the new general manager of the Orioles “barring a change of heart.”

Elias, 35, has been the Astros’ assistant general manager since August 2016. He had previously served as Houston’s scouting director and, before that, as a scout for the Cardinals. He was part of the team that came over from the Cardinals when Jeff Luhnow joined the Astros.

If he does take the O’s job his work will certainly be cut out for him. Baltimore was historically bad in 2018, finishing 47-115 thanks to a roster full of expensive, past-their-prime players and an underdeveloped farm system. He’ll have to hit the ground running too, as he’ll not join the team until nearly two months into the club’s offseason, having had no time to assess its needs and personnel. Oh, and the Winter Meetings begin in a little over three weeks.