Free Agent Stock Watch: Grant Balfour

One member of the Rays' 2010 bullpen has already inked a lucrative three-year deal, but Joaquin Benoit won't be the only Tampa Bay reliever to draw interest this winter. Let's examine the stock of Grant Balfour, another of the team's free agent right-handers.

The Good

  • Balfour posted a 2.98 ERA in three seasons for Tampa Bay, including a 2.28 mark in 2010. In his 181 innings over the last three years, he's struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings, and even closed occasionally, recording eight saves.
  • He has enjoyed that success while playing in the tough AL East, so there shouldn't be any doubt about his ability to play for any team in either league.
  • When MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ranked the top 50 free agents, he placed Balfour just a few spots behind Benoit. Considering Benoit earned a $16.5MM deal, Balfour's odds of signing for multiple years look good.

The Bad

  • Balfour is a Type A free agent, meaning it'll cost a high draft pick to sign him if he declines arbitration. For teams with protected first round picks or teams who sign two or three Type A players, this won't be as significant an issue, but it could limit his market to some extent.
  • Though the 33-year-old doesn't have a history of health problems, he did spend a month on the disabled list in 2010 with a rib injury.
  • Balfour has only thrown more than 60 innings once in his career, in 2009. It was the worst of his seasons with the Rays (4.81 ERA, 4.4 BB/9).

The Verdict

We haven't heard much yet about the market for Balfour this offseason, but he's coming off an impressive 2010 campaign and should be one of the more appealing non-closers available. MLBTR's writers were split on where the righty will land, with the Diamondbacks, Yankees, and Dodgers receiving votes. I'd imagine the Mets, Angels, Red Sox, and a handful of other teams would have some interest as well.

The Levinson Brothers, who negotiated Benoit's contract, also represent Balfour, and will likely be hunting for a similar offer. While I don't think they'll match the three years and $16.5MM that Benoit received from the Tigers, I expect Balfour to land a two-year, eight-figure deal.

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