Marc Lancaster of fanhouse.com reports that the Athletics have signed FA relief pitcher and noted Australian Grant Balfour to a 2-year, $8.1 million deal -- with a club option for 2013 -- pending a physical in Oakland on Monday. This gives the A's another proven arm in the 'pen, as well as giving them the two most relevantly-named pitchers in MLB, Balfour & Outman. Balfour was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA for the AL East champion Tampa Rays in 2010... let's hear your opinions of this signing in this JPShark fanpost right here. -EN
This week, I was asked to answer some questions for a Washington National's blog (you can view the interview here) and one of the questions asked made me take pause.
Has Kevin Kouzmanoff worn out his welcome?
I answered the question in a straightforward manner; Kouzmanoff replaced Chavez; (sadly) led the team in homeruns with sixteen, struggled overall on offense, but was ranked one of the best defenders in Major League baseball in 2010.
But I guess throughout all the excitement about a possible Beltre signing, I never really thought about how Kouzmanoff felt. Obviously, if the off-season was any indication, he has every right to feel like the A's exhausted every resource trying to sign a replacement third baseman, and when their efforts failed, they said, "Okay, we'll stick with Kouz." That's not exactly going to inspire confidence in anyone.
Kouzmanoff is probably feeling like he is playing the hot corner in Oakland because no one else will. And he's likely not wrong.
Jane Lee wrote a thorough piece on the Kouzmanoff story on MLB.com, so I'll just quote Kouzmanoff from the article:
There I am kind of sitting off to the side thinking, 'Where do I fit? Obviously, the A's don't really like me that much at third base if they're trying to get another third baseman.'
"I guess you can say I am a little surprised to be with the team right now because of the interest they showed in other third basemen," he said. "They got one third baseman, and then they tried to go out and get another one, so I feel like I'm kinda third in line now.
"I talked to my agent a few days ago, and he said everything is a go," Kouzmanoff said. "Billy Beane said things will be fine and we'll go through the arbitration process. We're going to be friendly about it and get on with the season."
Kouzmanoff joins Craig Breslow, Dallas Braden, Brad Ziegler, Josh Willingham, and Conor Jackson as the six players that have to settle with the A's before the start of the 2011 season. Joey Devine and Ryan Sweeney avoided arbitration by both signing contracts with the A's last year.
The A's are notorious for avoiding arbitration hearings, and all six players are expected to reach an agreement with the A's in the next month.
Professional player or not, I think the off-season action still has to sting for Kevin Kouzmanoff. It's nothing personal; just the business of baseball, but his 2010 offensive season is bound to be a reason why the A's were looking elsewhere. Although he led the club in homeruns, sixteen is nothing to write home about (unless you are Ryan Sweeney) and Kouzmanoff's abysmal .687 OPS is probably what most of us remember.
That being said, it would be hard to find anyone, including Eric Chavez himself, who could have played better defense at 3rd than Kouz did last season. But the A's are clearly hurting for power, and if Kouzmanoff wants to endear himself to the A's front office and the fans, he is going to have to put up better numbers than he did last year.