WASHINGTON -- The Mets have targeted the A's Grant Balfour as one of their potential trade options for improving the bullpen, a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
General manager Sandy Alderson indicated a day earlier that relief help is the team's "No. 1 priority" as the July 31 non-waiver deadline draws closer and the Mets did nothing to change his mind by blowing two saves chances later Tuesday night in a brutal 5-4 loss to the Nationals in 10 innings.
The A's have a surplus of relief pitchers, and Balfour, who earns $4.5 million this season, could be replaced in his current bullpen role. Plus, Balfour's remaining salary is palatable for the Mets. He has a $350,000 buyout on a $4.5 million option for 2013 if they decide not to bring him back at that price.
The money is negotiable, of course, depending on what the Mets are willing to part with in terms of young talent in any deal. Balfour, 34, has a 3.07 ERA in 44 appearances for Oakland with 34 strikeouts in 43 innings.
Heading into Wednesday night's game, the Mets' relief corps ranked last in the majors with a 5.00 ERA. Their bullpen's 19 losses was the second-highest total, trailing only the Brewers' 22.
Jon Rauch was unavailable to pitch in Tuesday's extra-inning loss because he had both knees drained of fluid that afternoon. Rauch had the same procedure done during the All-Star break, but the fluid returned, and manager Terry Collins is hoping he'll be OK for a while. "He's always had it," Collins said. "This one flared up this past week." . . . The four-time Grammy-nominated band Daughtry will perform after tomorrow night's game against the Dodgers at Citi Field. Tickets are available at Mets.com/daughtry and 718-507-TIXX.