OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oakland Athletics exercised their $4.5 million contract option for closer Grant Balfour on Monday, while the AL West champions declined their half of a $10 million mutual option for shortstop Stephen Drew.
Drew receives a $1.35 million buyout, though assistant general manager David Forst said the team would continue to negotiate with his representatives and try to sign him. Balfour would have been due a $350,000 buyout if the A's had turned down the option. General manager Billy Beane all but said when the season ended in a five-game division series loss to the Detroit Tigers this month that he would keep Balfour and do all he could to maintain the current roster.
"It's great," Balfour said. "I would like to stay longer. Hopefully we can work something out. I believe we are young and have a lot of good times ahead for the Oakland organization and the fans."
Balfour, the 34-year-old Australian right-hander, went 3-2 with a 2.53 ERA, 24 saves and 75 appearances spanning 74 2-3 innings during his second season with Oakland and ninth in the majors. He began the season as the closer, lost the job, then earned it back again down the stretch as the A's returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Oakland swept the Texas Rangers in the final three games of the season to capture the AL West in surprising fashion.
Drew, acquired in an August trade with Arizona, batted .250 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 39 regular-season games for the A's. Drew took over at shortstop and Cliff Pennington shifted to second base. Beane has since moved Pennington to the Diamondbacks in an Oct. 21 trade that brought outfielder Chris Young to Oakland.
Beane's plan is for Scott Sizemore — out all season following a knee injury that required surgery after he was injured on the first day of full-squad spring training workouts — to return to his natural spot at second, so there is a hole to fill at shortstop for now.
Oakland had the lowest payroll in the major leagues at $59.5 million.