Grant Balfour came into the offseason as one of the top closers available, but just weeks away from Spring Training he remains available on the open market. Balfour could be getting close to signing and may reach a deal within the week, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The Washington Nationals are believed to be a serious option at this point, following word over the weekend that they’d expressed an interest.
Washington would appear to not need an expensive bullpen addition given the presence of Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, and Tyler Clippard in the pen. Signing Balfour, potentially just on a one year deal, could be a move that would make a lot of sense for the team, however, as Kilgore goes on to explain.
Soriano’s contract contains a $14 Million vesting option for the 2015 season. It will vest with Soriano finishing 62 games in 2014, a possibility that will be limited with Balfour in line to close out games. He also brings a substantial amount of experience to the mix, as he’s spent time with playoff contending teams in both Tampa Bay and Oakland before reaching free agency this winter.
Balfour earned just $4.5 Million this past season. Earlier this offseason he’d come to an agreement with the Baltimore Orioles on a two year, $15 Million deal but the team backed out following Balfour’s physical, citing concerns about his wrist and knee. It’s unclear what his current contract demands are and if he’d be willing to accept a one year deal.
The Nationals will reportedly look to move a reliever should they agree to bring Balfour into the mix, just to keep payroll in line, and Kilgore hears the most likely suspect would be Storen. The former 1st Round pick (taken nine spots after Stephen Strasburg) is slated to earn $3.5 Million in 2014 after avoiding arbitration with the team and has struggled with consistency over the past two seasons. Washington would likely be selling low on him, so it’s tough to see why the team wouldn’t instead look to deal Tyler Clippard and his higher salary (he’s also closer to free agency).