Grant Balfour Rumors

Balfour Expected To Sign Within The Next Week

Free agent right-hander Grant Balfour is expected to make a decision as to where he will sign "within a week, if not in the coming days," a person close to his situation tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Nationals are in the mix for Balfour, and Kilgore writes that it should be known soon how serious that level of interest is. GM Mike Rizzo appeared on the MLB Network this morning and spoke in general terms regarding Balfour (via Kilgore):

"Sometimes, you get some values at this time of year. We’re looking for any way to strengthen a weakness we have. We feel our bullpen is extremely strong. It’s a big part of our ball club. But if we could strengthen a strength, that never hurts, either. You can never have too many good players. Especially in January, you can never have too many good arms, too many starters, too many relievers."

In his weekend report, Rosenthal noted that the purpose of backloading the two-year deals inked by Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond was to create financial flexibility for the 2014 season. The club saved in the vicinity of $3.5MM by backloading those deals, and that money, paired with a trade of Drew Storen — something both Rosenthal and Kilgore note as a possibility — would seem to free up enough payroll to add Balfour. Storen is set to earn $3.5MM next season.

The 36-year-old Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15MM with the Orioles back in December, but that contract fell through due to medical concerns from Baltimore. While the initial reaction to the deal was anger from Balfour and his agents because multiple doctors said his shoulder was perfectly healthy, recent reports have indicated that Baltimore backed off due to concerns in Balfour's wrist and knee.


Nationals In Mix For Grant Balfour

The Nationals have interest in free agent reliever Grant Balfour, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Nats already have three relievers with closing experience in Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, but the addition of Balfour could make sense for a variety of reasons, Rosenthal writes.

According to sources, GM Mike Rizzo & Co. would like to trade Storen, who will earn $3.45MM in 2014.  Meanwhile, Washington almost certainly doesn't want Soriano to pitch enough games to trigger his $14MM option for 2015 and they'd probably like to keep Clippard as a setup man.

The Nationals saved about $3.5MM by signing shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to back-loaded, two-year extensions and major league sources say their aim was to create financial flexibility.  They want to add another bat off the bench, but they also would like to add Balfour.  They could also parlay those savings into settling their arb cases with Clippard and Doug Fister, but, of course, they'd rather not have to.

Balfour, of course, had agreed to a two-year, $15MM contract with the Beltway's other team before the O's called it off due to concerns about his knee and wrist.  Meanwhile, Balfour has been adamant that he is completely healthy.

While the Nationals like Balfour, they don't have interest in Fernando Rodney, the other top closer on the market, sources say.  


O’s Backed Off Balfour Deal Due To Knee, Wrist Concerns

Though two doctors voiced their confidence that Grant Balfour's shoulder was healthy after the Orioles backed out of their two-year agreement with the Australian closer, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the O's actually called off the deal due to concerns over Balfour's knee and wrist (Twitter link).

The Orioles and Balfour had agreed to a two-year, $15MM contract in what looked to be a solid move for Baltimore — shedding Jim Johnson's salary and saving $3-4MM to turn the ninth inning over to Balfour. However, Baltimore backed off due to medical concerns, infuriating Balfour and his representatives at ACES. At the time, Balfour was said to be considering filing a grievance against the Orioles.

Since his deal with the Orioles fell through, Balfour has been connected to the Yankees, Rays and Giants, among other teams. He added in a radio appearance that he had at least one offer on the table. At this point, a healthy Balfour would be in the running for best reliever on the market, alongside Fernando Rodney. However, if there are medical concerns surrounding his knee and wrist that have flown under the radar to this point, he may have a difficult time matching that two-year, $15MM offer.



Giants Notes: Balfour, Surkamp, Pill

The Giants have had talks with Grant Balfour, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Schulman rates the Giants' chances of actually signing Balfour as "meh," however. As Schulman reported earlier today, the Giants are looking for a reliever but likely not a closer, so they would appear unlikely to pay steeply for Balfour's services. Since Balfour's deal with the Orioles fell through, he has been connected to the Yankees and Rays. Here's more out of San Francisco.

  • The Giants lost lefty Eric Surkamp (who was claimed by the White Sox) in part because Brett Pill remains on their 40-man roster, Schulman explains. The Giants are selling Pill's rights to the KIA Tigers in Korea, but until that deal is done, Pill has to stay on the 40-man, or the Giants can't collect their $500K transfer fee. That made Surkamp the odd man out when the Giants needed a roster spot for Mike Morse. In any case, Schulman notes that the Giants might have designated Surkamp anyway once they signed their extra reliever.
  • From the outside, the Giants' move to designate Surkamp for assignment didn't make sense, Grant Brisbee of SB Nation writes. Brisbee suggests that the Giants "probably let the next Carlos Villanueva go," reffering to the Giants' 2004 decision to send Villanueva to the Brewers in a minor trade for Wayne Franklin and Leo Estrella.

Orioles Notes: Hendriks, Balfour, K-Rod

The Orioles' claim of Liam Hendriks today was, like many waiver claims, an acquisition made with depth in mind — Orioles executive Dan Duquette sees Hendriks as a possible spot starter, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. But Duquette also likes Hendriks' control. Hendriks struggled in the Majors in 2013, but he walked only 1.4 batters per nine innings in 98 1/3 frames for Triple-A Rochester, and since he was only 24, Duquette is optimistic that he might be able to post strong control numbers in the big leagues. Here are more notes on the Orioles.

  • Hendriks' acquisition won't stop the Orioles from pursuing starting pitching. The O's continue to look for starters in both free agency and the trade market, Encina tweets. Baltimore has been connected to starters including Ubaldo Jimenez, Johan Santana and A.J. Burnett.
  • Don't expect a big move before Christmas, however — Duquette indicates that most teams will begin their holiday breaks after today (via MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko on Twitter).
  • The Grant Balfour "fiasco" could be an issue for the Orioles as they pursue free agents, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The O's backed out of their agreement with Balfour over concern regarding his medicals, a concern some other teams did not share. That wasn't the first time the Orioles had voided a deal for medical reasons, as Rosenthal describes. "This will factor into every competent agent's thought process going forward," an agent tells Rosenthal.
  • The Orioles do not seem to be interested in re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, Kubatko writes. Instead, they'll likely go with Tommy Hunter or free agent Fernando Rodney for their closer role.

Yankees Interested In Grant Balfour

The Yankees have shown interest in closer Grant Balfour in the wake of his deal with the Orioles coming apart, a source tells Kevin Kernan of the New York Post.  Balfour, of course, had a two-year, $15MM deal ironed out with Baltimore before the club backed out of the deal over concern about his shoulder. 

The Yankees want to give David Robertson the shot to earn the closer’s role but adding Balfour would give them an experienced ninth-inning option.  Robertson believes that he is prepared to take over Mariano Rivera's position but is also willing to be the eight-inning option again if that's what the Yankees want him to do.

While the O's apparently saw something that they didn't like, Balfour insists that he is healthy and says that he has "at least" one offer on the table with three other clubs interested.  Balfour, who turns 36 next Monday, posted a 2.59 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 on his way to a first career All-Star selection in 2013.  


Orioles, Three Others Showing “Significant” Interest In Rodney

MONDAY: The Orioles are one of four teams showing "significant" interest in Rodney, Connolly reports. Baltimore's decision not to sign Balfour has "unquestionably" intensified the Rodney market, Connolly's source added. Baltimore likes Rodney's recent AL East success, but there's a sense that he could require a larger deal than the two-year, $15MM agreement with Balfour that crumbled, and that could be beyond the Orioles' comfort limit, says Connolly.

The team has also checked in on Francisco Rodriguez, Connolly adds. One source told him that the O's have reached out to K-Rod very recently, but the sense is that it was more due diligence than genuine interest. Rodriguez wasn't happy with his role in Baltimore's bullpen in 2013, as he rarely worked high leverage innings after being acquired from the Brewers for infield prospect Nick Delmonico.

FRIDAY: With the Grant Balfour decision in limbo, the Orioles are turning their attention to Fernando Rodney, an industry source tells Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).  The O's had discussions with and about Rodney earlier this winter but negotiations didn't progress (link).

Rodney is reportedly seeking as much as $10MM per year, which would make him a considerably more expensive option than Balfour.  However, with many closing vacancies already filled, Rodney's leverage may not be as great as it was early in the offseason.  By that same token, his agents at the MVP Sports group can make the case that Rodney is the best closer left on the market to try to get the Orioles to pay a premium.

Rodney is coming off a strong season in which he pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings for the Rays.  Though he racked up another 37 saves, Rodney's history of command issues resurfaced in 2013 after it looked like he may have overcome that problem a year prior.  In his free agent profile of Rodney back on Nov. 1, our own Steve Adams predicted a two-year, $18MM contract for the soon-to-be 37-year-old.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Four Teams Interested In Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour tells Jim Duquette (Twitter link) and Jim Bowden of SiriusXM that he has four teams interested in his services and has "at least" one offer on the table.  Balfour had agreed on a two-year, $15MM deal with the O's before concerns over his shoulder led the club to nix the deal.

Recently, Duquette suggested that the Mariners, White Sox, Yankees and Rays could all make sense for the closer with ESPN.com's Jim Bowden confirming that Tampa Bay has interest.  Meanwhile, Balfour could file a grievance against the Orioles for breaking the pact.

Balfour, who celebrates his 36th birthday on December 30th, turned in a 2.59 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 on his way to a first career All-Star selection. Balfour doesn't have the near-95-mph fastball average that he boasted in his best season with the Rays in 2008, but his 2013 average of 93.4 mph was still solid. The right-hander hasn't had an ERA higher than 2.59 in his last four seasons.


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East Notes: Price, O’s, Balfour, Braves, Marlins

In an article with the latest on the David Price situation, the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin dismisses reports that the Rays are motivated to move the Cy Young winner by Dec. 31 to avoid having to pay $4MM in deferred money. "The payment isn't due until Oct. 1, and it is the Rays' obligation, so really a nonfactor, as including it would be the same as asking for cash in a deal and subject to MLB approval," Topkin writes. While the Mariners are often named as a likely suitor for Price, they "seem to talk more about what prospects they don't want to trade." Here's more from the AL and NL East:

  • The Orioles could fill their closer and second base vacancies from within, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Fans have been frustrated by the club's quiet offseason thus far, but the O's seem likely to pluck their next second baseman from what they already have, and they won't spend lavishly on another ninth-inning option if Fernando Rodney doesn't drop his price.
  • The Orioles' nullified deal with Grant Balfour could conceivably have ramifications for Baltimore, Kubatko writes.  It's possible that the reliever could decide to file a grievance with the Players' Association or that some free agents down the road may be leery of agreeing to terms with the club.
  • The Yankees could be back in on Balfour, along with the Tigers, Rockies, and Angels, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Earlier this week we heard that the Rays are also in the mix.
  • The Braves won't force the issue in their search of bullpen depth, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
  • The Marlins, meanwhile, are after a veteran presence to add to their pen, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Latest On Orioles’ Closer Situation

Here's the latest on the Orioles' pursuit of a closer courtesy of a series of tweets from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The Orioles are upset at the idea that they "backed out" of their agreement with Grant Balfour, as they don't have another closer in waiting. They heeded their doctors' recommendations after Balfour's physical, and now would not be comfortable signing him for more than a year plus an option.

With a deal with Balfour now unlikely, the Orioles could pursue Fernando Rodney, or just give their closer's job to one of their current pitchers. Free agent Chris Perez does not seem to be a possibility. The Orioles have discussed the possibility of a Jonathan Papelbon trade with the Phillies, but Papelbon's contract is an obstacle. The Phillies owe Papelbon $13MM in both 2014 and 2015, and he also has a $13MM vesting option for 2016.