Baltimore Orioles rumors: Grant Balfour edition

Baltimore Orioles

Grant Balfour would stabilize a shaky Baltimore Orioles bullpen (Photo: Associated Press)

The Baltimore Orioles are one of three teams with a multi-year offer out to P Grant Balfour.

Balfour, formerly with the Oakland Athletics, would fill the vacant closer role that opened up when Baltimore traded Jim Johnson to, ironically, Oakland, in exchange for Jemile Weeks.

Part of the reason the O’s got rid of Johnson was to avoid paying him the $10 million he would be owed next season. If Balfour’s per-year contract is less than that, it could end up a huge win for the Orioles.

Balfour, a hard-throwing righty from Sydney, Australia, went 1-3 with a 2.59 ERA last season in Oakland. He has a career WHIP of 1.19 (1.20 last year), slightly better than Johnson’s 2013 WHIP of 1.28. He also had 72 strikeouts compared to Johnson’s 56.

The major hold-up in the deal being completed, according to multiple reports, is the length of the deal. The Orioles reportedly have offered Balfour a two-year deal, while Balfour would prefer three years. Balfour will be 36 on December 30th, so this could very well be his las chance to land a big contract.

If Baltimore lets him get away, they could turn to either Brian Matusz or Bud Norris to fill the role.

The Orioles have yet to sign a big-name free agent this offseason, even though GM Dan Duquette has stated that they have plenty of offers on the table to try and reel in a big fish. They did land former Marlins P Ryan Webb, an underrated power arm out of the bullpen, but a 7th/8th inning reliever does little to excite a fan base that is rapidly getting impatient after seeing OF Nate McLouth leave to sign with Washington, and all of the other teams in the AL East making major moves.

If they fail to bring in Balfour, the temperature on Duquette’s chair is only going to rise.

  • Ryne Mehan

    Good article. This is the first I am hearing of possibly Bud Norris filling in at the closer role. I know it’s only a hypothetical, but I think that would be a mistake. Bud was very solid in a starting role and even though it was a very small dose there were two occasions last season where Bud came in in extra innings and had trouble finding the strike zone right away. Again, I know it was only two games but as a starter I think he is too valuable because he does a very good job of throwing strikes and being aggressive. Unless they have no other option then I say no.

    Obviously you want your closer to be aggressive and to throw strikes as well, which is why I think the Os need Balfour by default, but shifting Norris would give the Os even more question marks in the rotation, which has been their biggest problem the last couple of years. They finally seem to have their rotation filled with consistent and capable arms: Tillman, Chen, Norris, and Gonzalez. In the past they had Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, Garcia…pretty much all mediocre options filling in the last spot or two in the rotation, which has really destroyed the flow and rhythm of this team. It’s nearly
    Impossible to get on a good run and to put a nice winning streak together when you constantly have to worry about the back end of your rotation, it also puts more pressure on Tillman and Chen and guys like that to really do the job of two pitchers.

    First and foremost, I think the main mission for this team and for management is erase the question marks once and for all, which means as little experimenting as possible. They need to find something that has proven it can work and hopefully stay with it if they want to be competitive all season. The team can’t afford to fall behind because the division is too good and too competitive. That’s not to say that they can’t tweak or do a little experimenting her and there, there just has to be better balance and “Plan B” options in case the experimenting doesn’t work.

    Not that it really matters, but here are the moves (realistically) I think the Os need to make this offseason:
    •Sign Balfour to two years (I understand it rests in Balfour’s hands and what he is offered, but still).
    •Sign Raul Ibanez to DH against righties and occasionally give outfielders a day off (both fatigue and the DH slot have been major problems recently). Ibanez would fall in love with that short right field porch, should easily hit 20-25 next year and wouldn’t cost nearly as much as other players teams are pursuing
    •Sign a veteran starter (for insurance). At the least it would allow Gausman more time to develop and would give the Os another steady option. I know the Os are waiting on Burnett.
    •Sign Michael Young if he doesn’t demand too much money. That would provide solid depth and he is a good and proven situational player. His declining numbers don’t scare me because they wouldn’t necessarily need him to play every day. I have much more faith in Michael Young that Ryan Flaherty or any other alternative option the Os have. Machado may not play right away and Roberts is obviously very injury prone.

    More likely than not those all of wont happen, and understandably so. I think those should all be a top the priority list though, in terms of being competitive this season.