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.

Report: Angels to sign Cody Allen

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels and reliever Cody Allen are in agreement on a one-year contract, pending a physical. The value of the contract is not yet known.

Allen, 30, was looking for an opportunity to close and the Angels can certainly provide that. He will likely be the favorite to break camp as the closer. 2018 was the roughest year of his career, however, as he finished with a 4.70 ERA, 27 saves, and a 80/33 K/BB ratio in 67 innings. Among Allen’s six full seasons, his 27.7 strikeout rate and 11.4 percent walk rate represented career-worsts. FanGraphs also shows him losing nearly a full MPH on his average fastball velocity.

The Angels lost closer Keynan Middleton to Tommy John surgery early last season and he likely won’t return until the second half of the 2019 season. Blake Parker, who handled save situations in Middleton’s place, was non-tendered by the Angels in November and ended up signing with the Twins. The closer’s role is Allen’s to lose, it seems.