Balfour just signed with the Orioles on a 2 yr/ 15mm contract. While some of you are upset about this, which is understandable, I would like to present the facts. Losing Balfour was not only good for the club in the short run, but also the long. Here is why:
Johnson is projected to make around $10.3mm in arbitration. Yes, that is a lot for a reliever in 1 season, but that is the only commitment the A's have to make. Balfour required a multi-year deal that guaranteed him $15mm. Thus the A's have saved at least $4mm, that they can use for the off-season next year. With Crisp and Callaspo's contracts expiring (and most likely not resigned), the A's will have at least $16mm to play with. With Gregerson and Doolittle around, there is no need to shell out any more money to Johnson in 2015.
Balfour will be turning 36 at the end of this month (Dec). Thus the Orioles will be paying him a guaranteed total of $15mm for his age 36 and 37 seasons. Johnson is currently 30, turning 31 at the end of June. The A's will have him locked in this year for his age 30/31 season.
Both Balfour and Johnson have put up excellent statistics over the last 2 seasons. But you have to keep in mind that Balfour pitched in O.Co, a notorious pitcher friendly ballpark, while Johnson pitched at Camden Yards, which is a top 10 ballpark for hitters. This is very important to note as you review the stats below.
Balfour: 74.2 IP, 2.53 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9
Johnson: 68.2 IP, 2.49 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9
Balfour: 62.2 IP, 2.59 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
Johnson: 70.1 IP, 2.94 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
These are the most recent regular season games each pitcher has played in. Here are the statistics from the last 20.2 IP in 2013, for both pitchers. Jul 31- End Of Season for Balfour, and Aug 6- End Of Season for Johnson.
Balfour: 20.2 IP, 3.92 ERA, 27 K, 13 BB, 2 HR
Johnson: 20.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 18 K, 3 BB, 2 HR
Looking at their past performance as well as their most recent, they are very similar pitchers. Balfour strikes out more, but also has less control, which results in a much higher walk rate. Johnson does not strike out as many, gives up more hits, but rarely walks a batter. Both pitchers hold runners well, and have low ERAs.
Again, I must point out, that these statistics have each player's home ballpark to factor in. Johnson has done his performance almost as well as Balfour, but pitching at Camden.
It also seems like Balfour's age and endurance is catching up to him. As he pitched 12 less innings in 2013, as he did in 2012, and the last 20 IP, he slipped up and gave up an abnormal amount of walks, and let runners score.
This was an investment for 2014 only. Beane saw based on past performance, age, ballpark factors, and future performance, that Johnson, although more expensive for the 2014 season, is more reliable, and a more realistic bet to duplicate his 2013 numbers, or possibly improve. Since this contract ends at the end of 2014, there is minimal risk for Beane, and he is not stuck with anything he doesn't want to be.
I hope this helps ease some minds and provide insight to all the AN-ers who needed it.