Rays and A’s have interesting parallels surrounding the closer role
The Tampa Bay Rays have announced that Grant Balfour is no longer their closer and that they are going to go with a “closer by committee” approach. It makes sense. Balfour has a 6.46 ERA in 24 games with the Rays.
“It just wasn’t working out.”
Balfour reacted after Sunday’s game as if he knew what was coming,
“I think I upset the baseball gods or did something wrong. I’ve never given up five runs in my career in an inning and I’ve done it twice this season.”
This change has seemed inevitable because of Balfour’s last few outings. He was booed by the Tampa Bay fans when the Rays played the Oakland A’s, Balfour’s former team, in May. Candidates to be party of the Rays’ committee are relievers Jake McGee and Juan Carlos Oviedo
What strikes me as oddly coincidental are the parallels between Balfour and the A’s Jim Johnson. Both are former All-Stars who did well with their former teams. Actually they almost switched places.
After the A’s traded for Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles, Balfour almost signed with O’s. It didn’t work out because the Australian right-hander didn’t pass the Orioles’ mandatory physical. He later signed a 2-year deal with the Rays for $12 million.
Johnson, who is making $10 million this season, was removed from the role of closer after the first two weeks of the season. The A’s then also used a “closer by committee” approach.
It’s interesting because besides trading for Johnson, who has one year left on his contract, the A’s other main option was to re-sign Balfour, who was looking for a multi-year deal. Either way it appears that the result would have been the same for Oakland. Sean Doolittle, whose contract was extended for up to six more years in April, would still be closing for the Athletics right now.
It now appears that they Rays’ will begin searching for their next closer from within as well. For their sake, I hope they planned as well as the A’s did.