Grant Balfour Rumors

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.


Full Story | Comments | Categories: Grant Balfour

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.


Grant Balfour Could File Grievance Against Orioles

7:38pm: The Rays are interested in Balfour, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweets. The Rays are on the lookout for a closer, and as noted below, a doctor for the Rays believes Balfour should have passed his physical, so the pairing of the two makes sense.

5:02pm: Balfour will discuss a grievance with the players' union, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). In a full column, Rosenthal reports that he spoke with two doctors who know Balfour well, both of whom say he is 100 percent fine. Rays team physician Koco Eaton was surprised that the deal wasn't completed. Eaton examined Balfour today and said it should have been "a no-brainer" for the Orioles to complete the contract, adding that Balfour's shoulder MRI today looked identical to the one he saw three years ago.

Rosenthal also spoke with Reds physician Timothy Kremcheck, who performed elbow and shoulder surgery on Balfour in the past. Said Kremcheck: "For a guy in his 30s who has pitched six or seven years since his rotator-cuff repair, his MRI on his shoulder looks remarkably good."

Balfour's agent, Seth Levinson, released a statement on the issue, stating plainly that "The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds." Levinson's full statement can be seen on Twitter, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

4:13pm: Balfour spoke with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and told her that he is baffled that the Orioles backed off because he is "100 percent fine." He went on to tell Slusser that his MRIs — including the MRI taken of his right shoulder — look exactly the same as they did three years ago. Slusser quotes Balfour:

"I'm the All-Star pitcher I was last season. My shoulder is fine, everything is fine. I'm ready to come out there in the ninth inning, do what I do."

Balfour told Slusser that he isn't looking to bad-mouth anyone and made no negative comments about the Orioles. Slusser notes that a team stepping away from Balfour due to medical concerns could cost him millions of dollars (All links to Slusser's Twitter).

2:08pm: The Orioles will not sign Grant Balfour, executive vice president Dan Duquette told reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly quotes Duquette (via Twitter) as saying: "We would never say never or close the door, but we're going to turn our attention elsewhere." Duquette said the Orioles could look to sign another free agent, trade for a closer or stay in-house for the closer, but they're not done adding pitching or other pieces (also via Connolly).

The Orioles agreed to terms with Balfour on a two-year, $15MM contract earlier this week, but problems with the physical placed the contract in jeopardy. With him out of the picture, the Orioles have reportedly begun to focus on Fernando Rodney, with whom they should be plenty familiar following two excellent season with the division rival Rays.


AL Notes: Balfour, Indians, Yankees, Pettitte, Lough

Now that Grant Balfour appears to be back on the market after the collapse of his deal with the Orioles, a variety of AL teams could be interested, MLB Network Radio's Jim Duquette notes (on Twitter). The Mariners, White Sox, Yankees and Rays could all make sense, and Duquette also tweets that the Indians could be a possibility as well. He notes that the Indians tried to sign Joaquin Benoit along with the already-signed John Axford, so Balfour might be another possibility in Cleveland. Here's more from around the big leagues.

  • The Yankees have announced a series of hires in coaching and player development, including former Royals manager Trey Hillman and Cubs manager Mike Quade. Hillman will serve as the Yankees' special assistant, major and minor-league operations. Quade will be their roving outfield and baserunning instructor.
  • The Yankees still need pitching, but it doesn't appear they'll be getting it from Andy Pettitte. GM Brian Cashman says Pettitte has "shut it down for good," Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Pettitte returned to the Yankees in 2012 after retiring for the first time following the 2010 season, but it looks like the Yankees won't be able to depend on that again. At 41, Pettitte posted a solid final season in New York in 2013, with a 3.74 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 185 1/3 innings.
  • Outfielder David Lough is "ecstatic" to be with the Orioles, he tells MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The O's acquired Lough for Danny Valencia on Wednesday. Lough says that, after the Royals acquired Norichika Aoki, he knew it was a possiblility they would deal him. "[M]y agent got a hold of me and told me that some clubs were interested in me and to kind of sit back and just expect to go to spring training and do what I've always done," says Lough. 

Orioles’ Deal With Grant Balfour In Jeopardy

7:53pm: Balfour's issue concerns his right shoulder, Connolly reports (Twitter link).  The righty underwent surgery to correct a torn rotator cuff in that shoulder in 2005, Connolly notes, though Balfour hasn't had any subsequent problems.  "More I hear, more it looks like Balfour deal could collapse," Connolly tweets, adding that the Orioles have traditionally been very cautious of signing players (particularly pitchers) with medical concerns.  

7:18pm: A source tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links) that the Balfour deal "may be in jeopardy," though "serious jeopardy" is probably too strong.  The Orioles would look at other closer options on the open market if Balfour's physical issue is a deal-breaker.

THURSDAY, 6:16pm: The Orioles/Balfour deal is "in serious jeopardy" and could fall apart altogether, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports.  Balfour's physical revealed issues that "need to be resolved," according to a source.  More word about this setback could come on Friday.

TUESDAY: The Orioles have agreed to a two-year, $15MM deal with Grant Balfour, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter).  He'll have $500K deferred in each season.  The deal is still pending a physical.

Balfour

Recent reports indicated that three teams had two-year offers on the table to Balfour, with the Orioles being the most aggressive team and the favorite to land him. Balfour reportedly wanted to pitch for the O's, but was holding out for a three-year deal. There was talk of adding a vesting option to the deal as a compromise, but it appears that a two-year pact was enough to get the job done.

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.

Some may point to Balfour's significant home/road split over the last three seasons as a big reason for his recent success.  Oakland's O.co Colliseum is one of the game's most pitcher-friendly environments, and Balfour has a 1.58 ERA in 113 2/3 innings there, compared to a more pedestrian 3.78 ERA in 85 2/3 innings on the road.

The Aussie missed two full seasons thanks to Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery following a promising debut with the Twins in his age 25-26 seasons. He rediscovered himself in Tampa Bay before heading to the A's in 2011. Balfour was handed the ninth inning in his second season with Oakland, and has racked up 62 saves from 2012-13 for the back-to-back AL West champions.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) first reported that the two sides were nearing agreement.  Additional details courtesy of CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (on Twitter).  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL East Notes: Floyd, Balfour, Yankees, Victorino

Before signing with the Braves for $4MM with an additional $4.5MM in incentives, starter Gavin Floyd reportedly turned down a two-year offer from the Orioles that could have reached $20MM in value with incentives, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). In an interesting reversal of the usual bargaining positions of player and team, Connolly writes that Baltimore was not interested in giving a one-year deal to Floyd (who is still working back from Tommy John surgery) because it sought to secure another season at a reasonable price. Meanwhile, the previously-durable righty chose the shorter-term deal, presumably hoping to prove his health and command multiple years when he enters next season's free agent market at age 31.

Here's more from the American League East …

  • The Orioles have a two-year offer out to free-agent closer Grant Balfour, and they're considering adding a vesting option to sweeten the deal, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko tweets. Balfour is reportedly hoping for a third guaranteed year.
  • In the wake of Robinson Cano's departure, the Yankees are unlikely to spend heavily on a second baseman, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees let Omar Infante go to the Royals and Mark Ellis to the Cardinals, so if they were to acquire a player like Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla or Rickie Weeks, they would likely expect the trading team to eat a good portion of their remaining salary. If the Yankees don't make some sort of big move, newly-acquired minor-league veteran Dean Anna could be part of the equation at second.
  • The Yankees are considering signing Michael Young or Brian Roberts to help in their infield, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. New York could also re-sign Mark Reynolds, according to Heyman.
  • Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino underwent nerve release surgery on his right thumb today, the club announced via press release. Boston expects Victorino to be ready to join the team for Spring Training. Victorino's thumb issues had limited him late in the Sox' title run last year, but it sounds as if the club's offseason plans will not be impacted at this point.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post. 


Latest On The Orioles’ Bullpen Search

The Orioles have been linked to many relievers in recent weeks, but talks regarding the O's and Grant Balfour picked up the most steam. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports (via Twitter) that Balfour wants to sign with the Orioles, but Baltimore won't budge from its current two-year offer, and Balfour is holding out for a third guaranteed year.

Last week, it was reported that three teams had made two-year offers to Balfour, with one team possibly including a vesting option. That team, reportedly, was not the Orioles, though a vesting option would seem to be a fitting compromise given the demands of each side. Baltimore already traded Jim Johnson and his projected $10.8MM salary, making it somewhat surprising to see the O's pursuing one of the better free agent closers on the market.

Another popular name on the free agent front in the past week has been John Axford, who inked a one-year deal with the Indians this weekend and is controllable for three more years via arbitration. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports (also on Twitter) that the O's never made an offer to Axford, however, which Encina takes as a sign that the Orioles continue to be focused on Balfour as their new closer.