Orioles rumors: Grant Balfour wants third year, O's sticking to two, exploring other options

Rob Carr

The Orioles, once considered the favorites to land free agent closer Grant Balfour, may have fallen back in the market. Balfour is reported to be seeking a third year that the O's aren't willing to offer to him.

The only thing that passed for a certainty regarding the Orioles at MLB's Winter Meetings seemed to be that they were going to zero in on, and sign, Grant Balfour. The meetings closed without that happening, meaning the Orioles left empty-handed. Eddie Encina of the Baltimore Sun gives one reason why:

This is more of the same of reports from Thursday that there were three teams in on Balfour, including the Orioles. At least one of the teams had a vesting option for a third year, but that team was not the Orioles.

Balfour has not leapt to sign with the team offering the third year as an option, so we can guess that team is not the immediate attractive destination for Balfour. That's no sure thing, though. Perhaps Balfour is in the process of considering what's best for him and will sign with that team. Perhaps he's holding out hope that the Orioles or some other team will offer him more years or money.

There has not been any indication of what kind of dollar figure would be attached to Balfour if he signed with the Orioles or anywhere else. He made $4.5 million in Oakland in 2013, pitching to a 2.59 ERA in 62.2 innings. That is very consistent with his performance in 2012 as well. However, he may have benefited by having his home stadium be in Oakland. Balfour had a 1.98 ERA at home as opposed to a 3.42 ERA on the road. At Camden Yards, he could run into problems that he did not in his last destination.

Balfour's virtue as a closer is that he racks up the strikeouts, getting over one per inning for his career. By having more of a strikeout arsenal, he's less immune to the bad batted ball luck that plagued Jim Johnson at times. That said, he also lives up to his name - ball four - by issuing walks at a Kevin Gregg-esque pace. That's not a joke. Balfour's career BB/9 is 3.94, where Gregg's is 4.10. Balfour had a higher strikeout rate than ever in 2013, with 72 in those 62.2 IP. Could you live with the walks if he was striking out so many batters?

Other closers who remain on the market if the Orioles don't close the deal with Balfour are John Axford and Chris Perez.

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