A’s options: Stephen Drew declined, Grant Balfour exercised

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Oakland has exercised its 2013 option on Grant Balfour, bringing the right-hander back for $4.5 million after he emerged as the team’s closer this season, but the A’s have declined their half of Stephen Drew’s mutual option for $10 million.

That makes Drew a free agent, although it’s possible the A’s could try to re-sign him in what is a pretty weak year for available shortstops. Drew hit .250 with five homers and a .707 OPS in 39 games for the A’s after struggling for the Diamondbacks. He gets a $1.35 million buyout.

Balfour had never saved more than four games in a season previously, but emerged as the A’s closer at age 34 and converted 24 saves with a 2.53 ERA in 75 innings. Combined during the past five seasons Balfour has a 2.78 ERA in 318 innings, striking out 9.6 batters per nine frames while holding opponents to a .191 batting average.

Nathan Eovaldi to make 2018 debut for Rays soon

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Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.

Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.

When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.

The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.