The A’s became very comfortable knowing that Grant Balfour was their closer the last few years.
Their comfort level figures to be as good or better this time around, even with Balfour gone.
Jim Johnson, who has saved 50 games in each of the last two seasons for the Orioles, is the A’s new closer. He was in Oakland Friday in preparation for Saturday’s FanFest at the Coliseum and Arena, and he said he’s excited that spring training starts next weekend.
“Once the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to go,’’ Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to this opportunity.’’
Bob Melvin ended the 2013 season with a bullpen he believed was the best he’d ever had at his disposal.
The relievers A’s manager Melvin called on last season went 24-18 with a 3.22 earned run average. The bullpen was the backbone of a second consecutive American League West title. The relievers won or saved 70 of the A’s 96 wins.
Now with spring training’s start drawing close, the manager says the Oakland bullpen for 2014 could be his best ever.
You may have read that John Jaso will head into spring training as the leading contender for the A’s designated hitter chores this year.
Jaso has read it, over and over again. Such is the power of the internet.
But the veteran catcher, whose contract with Oakland for the 2014 season was just finalized, doesn’t take all that talk all that seriously.
In the current baseball market place, it seems as if the Orioles got a relative bargain today when they locked in Grant Balfour, who’d been the A’s closer most of the last two seasons.
Baltimore’s opening for Balfour came after they’d traded their 50-saves closer of the last two seasons, Jim Johnson, to the A’s in the week leading up to the Winter Meetings.
So who comes out ahead here? The A’s have to pay Johnson more (he’s likely worth in the $10 million range in salary arbitration) for less – he’s a free agent after this year. The Orioles have Balfour locked in for two years for less – just $14 million.
The additions of Scott Kazmir to the starting rotation and Jim Johnson to the bullpen should have the A’s in good shape heading into the winter meetings.
The A’s will go to Orlando next week, because they have to at least make an appearance, but history suggests they may not do much past taking part in the Rule 5 draft, the same process that brought them first baseman Nate Freiman last year. History may prove to be wrong about that.
Already the A’s have shown a major ability to surprise. And they’d like more, because they need more. Oakland would like to add a bat, but most of the ones they’d want they can’t afford. Many of the one they can afford, they wouldn’t want. Maybe there is one out there they’d like.