When the Orioles’ contract with Grant Balfour fell apart over concerns about the health of his arm the assumption was that Baltimore would sign a different free agent to take over for Jim Johnson as closer.
However, that hasn’t happened yet and now Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles “are no longer focusing on a potential closer.”
According to Connolly they’re prepared to go into the season with in-house options for ninth-inning duties. In that scenario Tommy Hunter would be the presumed favorite after throwing 86 innings with a 2.81 ERA and 68/14 K/BB ratio in a setup role last season and Ryan Webb could also get a look.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.
Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.
Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.
Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.