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.
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.