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.