It seemed more than certain earlier this week that the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles had traded closers. The O’s sent Jim Johnson to the A’s, and then it seemed like they were going to sign Grant Balfour for two years, $15 million. Except General Manager Dan Duquette was not impressed with the results of Balfour’s physical, and the team decided they would look at other options.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Balfour initially was not upset, only to change tune later on. While it’s easy to understand where Balfour is coming from, if they didn’t like his physical and then Balfour went back on his word, it’s hard to fault the Orioles, who could use a closer. Balfour made the All Star team in 2013 and in some areas had better numbers than Johnson, but with the kind of rage Balfour has shown on and apparently off the mound, Baltimore doesn’t need that.
What the O’s need is somebody who is consistent. One could argue Johnson’s blown save in game 3 of the 2012 ALDS cost Baltimore a trip to the ALCS. He was really good during the regular season that year, saving 51 and even though he converted 2 saves against the New York Yankees in the Division Series, that was coupled with a 10.38 ERA.
Then Johnson tied with Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves for the most saves in the league this past season with 50, except Johnson also blew a league leading 9 saves. What good is consecutive 50 save seasons if said person also blows a great quantity of opportunities and/or blows them during crucial moments?
D.J. Short of NBCSports.com wrote Dec. 21 MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo says the team is in “aggressive pursuit” of free agent Fernando Rodney. On the negative, Rodney got off to a sluggish start in 2013 after an out-of-this-world 2012 campaign, but he did pick himself up in the second half. Jonathan Papelbon’s name has also been tossed around as a trade candidate with the Philadelphia Phillies, but looking at Papelbon, they may be getting a hybrid of Johnson and Balfour, and not in a good way. If his 2013 stats are any indication, acquiring the 33-year-old closer wouldn’t be treading any water if he keeps blowing saves in bunches, plus his outspokenness perhaps may alienate some in a clubhouse.
Going from within may not be a bad way to go for Baltimore. The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox faced off this year’s World Series. In addition, neither team’s closer by the World Series started off in that role on Opening Day. Mike Matheny went with a closer by committee for the Redbirds after Edward Mujica’s struggles. The Red Sox were trying to fill that closer’s void by trading for Andrew Bailey for 2012 and Joel Hanrahan for the 2013 season. Yet another one of their offseason acquisitions, Koji Uehara, received a promotion to the closer’s role during the season, and his lights out performance played a big role in Boston’s worst-to-first run in 2013.
Darren O’Day has shown himself to be a very effective reliever for this squad. He even notched a couple saves for them this past season. He can get a team a good deal of innings and his ERA+ and WHIP of the last two seasons show he has been effective in said innings.
Besides, critics argued the Pittsburgh Pirates should’ve gone after an established name after Jason Grilli went down to injury. However, Mark Melancon transitioned excellently from set-up man to closer and they didn’t miss a beat.
Acquiring someone like Rodney, Papelbon or somebody else, while having some drawbacks, wouldn’t necessarily be utterly wrong or outrageous for this team, but if they look at someone from within and give them a shot, then such a move could potentially take the Orioles very far.