The Baltimore Orioles have been among the quieter teams, at least among contenders, thus far at the Winter Meetings, but they could be closing in on one of the better relievers available. Having traded Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics earlier this offseason, the Orioles appear to be closing in on a deal for noted crazy person Grant Balfour.
One is only slightly jesting of course when referring to Balfour as insane, as he’s one of the most intense figures to take the bump in the last few seasons, particular since becoming a top notch closer in his recent days with the A’s. A free agent, the A’s did not bring Balfour back, instead acquiring Johnson from the O’s.
Which has left a closing vacancy in Baltimore, though there would appear to be some in-house candidates. Darren O’Day could be one, but his splits aren’t favorite. Tommy Hunter seemed to be a favorite to take over the ninth inning before news broke of the Orioles’ interest in Balfour.
We don’t know what type of deal they’re looking to sign Balfour to at this point, but one would imagine it’ll be fore less than the $10 million+ Johnson could be slated to earn through arbitration, otherwise the logic would be lacking. In terms of his save numbers, Balfour had the best season of his career, closing out 38 games with a save for Oakland. He pitched to a 2.59 ERA and struck out 10.34 batters per nine, his highest figure since the 2008 season.
As far as the emotion he brings to the table, Balfour is certainly one of those guys you’d love to have on your side, but hate to play against. His exchange of words with Victor Martinez in last year’s playoffs led to the benches clearing between the A’s and Detroit Tigers, and he brings a ton of emotion to the table. Which could be a good thing for the O’s.
Of course, he still has to sign. The Orioles have been a rumored destination for him for quite some time, and it appears they’d made an offer. Word is that it’s more a matter of years than money, so perhaps the O’s are trying to keep the term on his contract relatively short. Stay tuned.