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Grant Balfour Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12:41pm: The Orioles are closing in on a two-year deal with Balfour, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Recent reports have indicated that three teams have two-year offers on the table to Balfour, with the Orioles being the most aggressive team and the favorite to land him. Balfour reportedly wants to pitch for the O's, but he's holding out for a three-year deal. The Orioles are said to be set on two years, but last night they were said to be considering adding a vesting option to the deal as a compromise.
Now that the Winter Meetings are over, here are the top ten remaining free agents from Tim Dierkes' Top 50 list, with updates on each.
3. Shin-Soo Choo. The acquisitions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran by the Yankees, Curtis Granderson by the Mets and Corey Hart and Logan Morrison by the Mariners have helped define the market for Choo. One report recently indicated he Rangers had a seven-year offer on the table. Not everyone agreed, but in any case, the Rangers remain interested. The Astros, Diamondbacks and Reds do not appear to be in the mix. The Tigers could be another possibility, although ESPN's Jerry Crasnick recently wrote that their acquisition of Rajai Davis ruled them out.
5. Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka's status will likely become clearer once an agreement on the posting system is ratified tomorrow. If Rakuten decides to post Tanaka, the Diamondbacks could be serious suitors, as could the Cubs. Tanaka is also the Yankees' "top choice." The Dodgers might also be a possibility, but their interest doesn't appear to be as strong as expected.
6. Ervin Santana. The Tigers are reportedly interested in Santana, and the Diamondbacks have met with his agent. The Mets probably dropped out of the race when they agreed to terms with Bartolo Colon. The Yankees do not appear to be interested.
7. Matt Garza. Unlike Santana, Garza didn't receive a qualifying offer, which may improve his market, since teams won't have to worry about losing a draft pick. The Angels and Twins have been connected to Garza, although Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says his team doesn't have an offer out for Garza, and the Twins don't want to give Garza a four- or five-year deal. The Diamondbacks have repeatedly been connected to Garza, and Arizona could be a good landing spot, particularly if the D'Backs don't come up with Tanaka or Santana.
9. A.J. Burnett. The Pirates still believe Burnett is deciding between re-signing with them or retiring, although the Orioles have shown interest, and Burnett's offseason home is in Maryland. It's been almost two months since Burnett said he would take "a week or so" to decide whether to continue playing or retire.
11. Ubaldo Jimenez. The Indians want Jimenez to return, but it's unclear whether they'll make a big enough commitment to re-sign him. The Orioles might also be a possibility. Note that the last five names on this list are pitchers — with Tanaka unable to sign, Burnett a question mark, and David Price and Jeff Samardzija looming on the trade market, the free-agent market for pitching has been slow to develop.
14. Stephen Drew. Drew and Jhonny Peralta were the only big names on the shortstop market, and Peralta has already signed with the Cardinals, so Drew is a huge fish in a tiny pond. The Yankees need a second baseman after Robinson Cano and Omar Infante signed elsewhere, and a return to the Red Sox would still make sense, with Drew at shortstop and Xander Bogaerts at third. The Mets don't seem to be serious contenders.
17. Nelson Cruz. Cruz rejected a qualifying offer and is reportedly looking for a deal that pays $16MM or more a year, which may be a lot to player with limited defensive ability and scary offensive indicators. Cruz wants the Rangers to offer a three-year deal, but so far, they're only offering two. The Mariners continue to be connected to Cruz, even after adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
23. Bronson Arroyo. Four teams have reportedly offered Arroyo two-year deals, but Arroyo, like Cruz, seems to be holding out for three. The Twins are still a possibility even after their signings of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and their re-signing of Mike Pelfrey. The Mets and Reds are contenders as well.
25. Grant Balfour. The Indians just agreed to terms with John Axford, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted (via Twitter) that one likely scenario for the rest of the bullpen market had Joaquin Benoit going to the Padres and Balfour heading to the Orioles. The Boston Herald's Jen Royle, meanwhile, reports that the Orioles have offered Balfour a three-year deal, but Balfour wants three years with a vesting option (Twitter links). In any case, the Orioles look like Balfour's most serious suitors by far right now, although Royle suggests the Mariners could also come into play.
The career of the Rays' Tim Beckham, who was the first overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, hasn't gone as planned, but Beckham finally did make it to the Majors at the tail end of the 2013 season. 2014, though, may turn out to be a lost year for him, as he tore his ACL in his right knee, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes (on Twitter). Beckham, who turns 24 in January, hit .276/.342/.387 in 522 plate appearances at Triple-A Durham last season. Here are more notes from around the American Legaue.
- Yankees president Randy Levine's recent comments about Mike Trout and the Angels displeased Major League Baseball, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. In reference to Robinson Cano's ten-year contract with the Mariners, Levine said, "If Mike Trout was here, I’d recommend the 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense." That led MLB to investigate whether Levine's comments broke any rules regarding tampering with another team's players. Levine says he called Angels president John Carpino to apologize, and he considers the matter settled.
- The Orioles are still negotiating with free-agent closer Grant Balfour, but Balfour wants three years and the Orioles only want to give him two, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles indicate that they are willing to look elsewhere to fill their closer job if they can't find common ground with Balfour.
- The Orioles discussed a big-league deal with Jason Kubel's agency, Wasserman Media Group, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. Kubel ended up signing a minor-league deal with the Twins, however, and Kubatko suggests that's because Kubel is very confident he'll make the team in Minnesota (Twitter links).
- After adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the Mariners still want to add a starting pitcher, a reliever and another catcher, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. They'd like to add relief help to offset the departure of Carter Capps, who headed to the Marlins in the Morrison trade, and they're looking for a catcher because they have just two, Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre, on their 40-man.
4:56pm: The Orioles aren't the team that has offered Balfour a vesting option, tweets Encina.
3:40pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles are one of three teams that has made a two-year offer to Balfour. One team's offer contains a vesting option for a third season, he adds. Connolly isn't sure which team has offered the vesting option, but he gets the sense that it's not the Orioles (Twitter links).
1:45pm: The O's prefer Balfour on a two-year deal, and one other club is still in the mix at this time, tweets Heyman.
12:56pm: Years are the main sticking point in negotiations with Balfour, tweets Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
THURSDAY, 11:54am: The Orioles are confident that they can sign Balfour, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
WEDNESDAY: The Orioles have an offer out to reliever Grant Balfour and others as they try to fill four holes in their lineup, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The O's also have an offer out to John Axford, a source tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Heyman also notes that Baltimore has talked to Nelson Cruz's agent, but a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter) that the club hasn't made an offer to him.
Heyman writes that the O's are also in on an unnamed starting pitcher. Baltimore also has to address holes at closer, left field, and at DH. Balfour is their top choice to replace Jim Johnson as a closer with Axford and Chris Perez believed to be secondary options.
The Red Sox haven't made a formal offer to shortstop Stephen Drew, a source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Per multiple sources, the Red Sox’ strategy continues to be to wait for Drew to find what his market might result in before looping back in with him. Here's more out of the AL East..
- The Orioles have a two-year offer out to Grant Balfour, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the O's have an offer out to the reliever.
- A report from Japanese outlet Sponichi (Japanese link) indicates that submariner Shunsuke Watanabe is expected to sign a minor league deal with the Red Sox. Special thanks to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker for posting the report along via Twitter.
- The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Thad Weber has been granted his release and has signed a contract with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization. The club now has 39 players on the 40-man roster.