A’s decline Drew’s option, exercise Balfour’s

The A’s made a pair of significant decisions on Monday, choosing to decline shortstop Stephen Drew’s option, while electing to pick up closer Grant Balfour’s, as expected.

Drew, 29, held a mutual option worth $10 million, a hefty price tag for the small-budget A’s, who can still resign the free-agent shortstop should the two sides work out a new deal. 

According to sources, Oakland is very much interested in continuing conversations with Drew to bring him back, but should Scott Boras’ client go elsewhere, the A’s — who traded shortstop Cliff Pennington to the D-backs just last week — would be left to explore other options in a lackluster shortstop market that doesn’t feature many impact infielders.

Drew, an above-average defender, hit .250 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 39 games with the A’s, following his trade from Arizona on Aug. 20.

Balfour, meanwhile, will collect $4.5 million from the A’s in 2013, following an exceptional 2012 campaign that resulted in a team-high 75 appearances. The 34-year-old collected 24 saves while posting a 2.53 ERA.

Moving forward, the A’s top priority is presumably still Drew, and they must also decide whether to resign free agents Jonny Gomes and Brandon McCarthy.

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