Crystal Ball: Who Will Be Oakland’s Closer In 2012?


Every Friday, Swingin’ A’s will make a prediction about the A’s 2012 season with the help of our “crystal ball.” The series, appropriately titled “Crystal Ball Fridays,” will continue through the week before Opening Night. Enjoy. 

With Andrew Bailey now sporting a Boston Red Sox jersey, the A’s will need someone to fill their empty closer role. Oakland’s bullpen offers a few options for Bailey’s old spot, but who will be Oakland’s closer in 2012?

Oh Crystal Ball, please tell us who’ll be closing games this year for our beloved green-and-gold…

Well, the A’s 2012 season figures to be a wash so there will be plenty of time to figure certain things out like who’ll be the team’s new closer. Several names come to mind right off the bat including Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, and Joey Devine.

Fuentes, 36, is a potential successor to Bailey this year. He did, after all, start out last season as the team’s closer after Bailey sustained an injury during spring training. Fuentes struggled, though, under the watch of skipper Bob Geren during the first half of the season. He went 1-8 with a 4.82 ERA in 37.1 innings before the All-Star break.

Fuentes did, however, straighten things out during the second half. He went 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 21.0 innings after the break last season. Overall, Fuentes put together a so-so 2011 campaign, going 2-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 12 saves in 67 games. In addition to these numbers, Fuentes also posted a 4.16 FIP and a 0.1 WAR last season.

Balfour, 34, is currently on the hook for another $4.35 million or so, but the A’s decide to deal the Australia native this year. Doing so, however, would take away a strong candidate for Bailey’s vacant position.

With Albert Pujols joining the AL West this year, though, the A’s may want to have Balfour’s experience on the mound this season. I personally liked Balfour last year as he put together a solid 2011 campaign for the Athletics.

He went 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and a 8.56 K/9 in 62.0 innings last year. Not bad. He’s a veteran pitcher who has experience dealing with strong opposing offenses as he played three years in the tough AL East before coming to Oakland.

He definitely knows what it takes to win, which isn’t something that can be said about the rest of Oakland’s relievers.

Then there’s Devine. Devine, 28, missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons due to injury, but performed solidly when he did manage to play last year. In 23.0 innings of work last year, Devine posted a 1-1 record with a 3.52 ERA, 2.98 FIP, and a 0.4 WAR. He dominated Triple-A last year, too, going 4-0 with a 3.11 FIP and a 13.50 K/9 in 23.1 innings.

The A’s don’t have much to lose this season, so rolling with Devine, who’s health has been in question for the past few years, couldn’t hurt. The guy hasn’t given up a home run since 2006 and has closer-type stuff, so he does certainly fulfill the job description of closer.

Oakland also has guys like Jordan Norberto, Tyson Ross, Andrew Carignan, Fauntino De Los Santos, Neil Wagner, and Ryan Cook to help round out the ‘pen. De Los Santos is a good option if the three pitchers mentioned above fail. He throws the ball extremely hard and definitely has strikeout ability, but his walks are an issue.

So, for now, the Crystal Ball projects Grant Balfour entering camp as the team’s primary closer. Once Balfour gets traded, though, Devine could step in and assume the role of closer.

What do you think? Does Oakland have an in-house closer to assume Bailey’s vacated position? If so, who is it? Sound off below!

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