The Oakland Athletics are ready to let Grant Balfour leave.
Balfour’s successful season proved that he is a top closer in the MLB. With the A’s payroll and Balfour ready to cash in a raise, it is not a surprise that they are letting Balfour walk.
Now the A’s look toward the future. A solid replacement must be found for the Athletics to return to the playoffs. There are many options, the A’s just need to choose the right one.
FREE AGENCY: The Oakland Athletics will have some money (though not much) to spend on free agents. The question is if they want to use it on a closer. The strong market this offseason will drop prices a tad, but the A’s will still need to spend a solid sum to get a premier closer. Francisco Rodney, Edward Mujica and Joaquin Benoit could possibly be available, though it is unlikely the A’s would sign any of them to a big deal.
There are other relief options that the A’s could pursue as well. Jesse Crain, Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins could potentially be available. Any of those pitchers would strengthen the Athletics’ bullpen.
IN HOUSE CHOICES: Judging by the past, an in-house solution looks like the more probable route. The A’s have history of letting quality closers go in favor of who they already have in the bullpen.
If they decide to do this, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle would be the top two choices to assume the closer’s role.
Cook started last season on a tear before faltering down the stretch. Doolittle also had some rough patches throughout the season, though on the whole he was a competent relief option.
A third in-house option would be Dan Otero, who proved that he was a formidable weapon in the bullpen last season.
The most likely scenario includes making a closer out of one of those three relievers, although none of them have had very much closing experience. Cook has the most experience, closing 14 games last season.
The Oakland Athletics could be in for some ninth inning adventures next season, but if things can be solidified before the season starts, the A’s bullpen can continue their dominant ways.