Right-hander Grant Balfour, who was designated for assignment by the Rays last week, has cleared release waivers and is a free agent, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). Wolfson adds that he checked to see if a reunion with the Twins was a possibility, but he’s been told that Balfour will be signing elsewhere.
The 37-year-old Balfour looked to be on his way to the Orioles in the 2013-14 offseason, but his two-year deal fell through after the O’s weren’t comfortable with the results of his physical. Balfour ultimately ended up returning to Tampa Bay — the team with which he revived his career in 2008.
Balfour’s second stint in St. Petersburg, however, did not go as smoothly as his first. In 66 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, Balfour worked to a 5.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts against 45 walks. His ~93mph average fastball velocity dipped to 91.6 mph in 2014, and in this season’s small sample, he averaged just 89.4 mph. However, part of that could be due to the fact that Balfour missed much of Spring Training as he traveled back to his native Australia to be with his dying father for his final days.
From 2008-13, Balfour was a highly effective relief weapon, working to a 2.74 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 380 1/3 innings. Balfour averaged 64 appearances and 63 innings per season in that stretch, and he served as Oakland’s closer for the final two years of that stretch. With the A’s, the fiery Balfour saved 64 games and earned the first All-Star nod of his 12-year Major League career.
The Rays owe Balfour $7MM in 2015 (though $2MM of that figure is deferred). Should he latch on with another team, as Wolfson indicated, that club would be on the hook for only the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time Balfour spends on the big league roster.