Rays Sign Grant Balfour
According to multiple reports, Tampa Bay has agreed to a two-year contract with Grant Balfour worth $12 million. Balfour had previously agreed on a two-year, $15 million pact with the Orioles, but the deal died following Baltimore’s concerns over his physical. Shorty thereafter, Rays team physician Dr. Koko Eaton went on record in favor of Balfour’s health.
The Australian native spent more than three seasons (2007-2010) as a high-leverage reliever Rays before bolting for Oakland, as part of a mass free-agent exodus following the 2010 season. He accumulated 64 saves with the A’s (62 over the last two seasons) with an ERA just above 2.50 in three years. Balfour continued to post above-average strikeout rates while handing out a higher, but manageable, amount of free passes. He borders the line between a flyball and neutral pitcher; and, while, he gives up his fair share of longballs, the rates fall within reason.
Despite his advancing age, Balfour still slings fastballs in the mid-90s. He has, however, curtailed his appetite for the heater quite a bit. Fastballs comprised more than 80 percent of the pitches he threw with the Rays. It has been a gradual decline, but last year he threw the pitch just below 65 percent of the time. In lieu of the fastball, he has increased the amount of breaking balls thrown; most notably the slider. He threw nearly 800 sliders with the A’s, inducing a whiff on 36 percent of the swings against it. The slightly slower curveball was thrown less frequently, but had similar effectiveness. Much like his nature, the 36-year-old lives on the edge; throwing almost exclusively to the outer-half to batters on both sides of the plate.
With the addition of Balfour, the Rays currently have a full complement of high-leverage options with a varied strengths and skills. It is unknown if Balfour will assume the closer’s role, but the team should feel comfortable in its coverage of the back-end of games. Having Balfour along with Jake McGee, Juan Oviedo, Joel Peralta, and Heath Bell will afford Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey the opportunity to shorten the game for young starters if needed while allowing the opportunity to play matchups and change looks in the second half of contests.