Rays to sign Grant Balfour to two-year, $12 million contract

Leon Halip

After the Orioles backed out of their deal with Grant Balfour because of concerns with his physical, the Rays team doctor said it was a "no-brainer" for them to approve his contract. Now, the Rays have signed Balfour. I'm shocked (not shocked).

The theme of the off-season has been that other teams are going to sign the players that the Orioles are reported to be interested in. In the case of Grant Balfour, they went so far as to have an agreement with him for a contract, pending a physical, only they didn't like the result of the physical. A month later, Balfour is reported to have an agreement with the Rays:

It was the Rays whose team doctor called it a "no-brainer" for the Orioles to approve Balfour's contract. At the time, his comments were limited to Balfour's shoulder. Later reports indicated that the Orioles were hesitant about issues with one of Balfour's wrists and one of his knees, meaning that the Rays doctor's opinion was largely irrelevant, though it was presented as evidence of whatever a given writer wanted it to prove.

Now that the Rays have signed him, the way their doctor inserted himself into that situation is even weirder. If the Rays wanted to chase other teams away from Balfour, why would their doctor have presented him as having a clean bill of health? If they wanted to take advantage of a player who now appeared risky, why would their doctor go on the record downplaying that a risk existed? Instead, what happened was an organizational pissing contest, the sort of thing we don't often see out in the open. It's almost like the Rays just wanted to tweak the Orioles nose.

Given that the Orioles and Balfour originally had agreed on a $15 million contract, their rejection based on the physical results has allowed the Rays to get a player they wanted at a price that's essentially 20% off market price. That's a good deal for the Rays, though if Balfour has knee or wrist problems, one imagines the Orioles might be there waiting to say, "I told you so." Still, the Rays interest in Balfour doesn't mean the Orioles were wrong. They did not sign him for $15 million either.

It's possible the O's might even have wanted to sign Balfour for that reduced price. The way he responded to the original deal being rejected precluded that from happening. Based on the risk they saw, voiding the deal may have been a good decision, and it still could be a good decision even if Balfour goes 100-for-100 for save opportunities over the life of his contract without ever hitting the disabled list.

A bad deal at $7.5 million a year may have been a better deal at $6 million a year. The Rays are the team to take advantage of the Orioles being cautious. The Orioles could have been right to not sign him then and the Rays could also be right to sign him now.

In any case, now Balfour returns to the Rays and reporters can pre-write the stories for the first time Balfour will get to face the Orioles ahead of time. Balfour doesn't seem like a guy who has any problems working himself into a frenzy. He also doesn't seem like a guy who will hold back in telling reporters what he thinks about the franchise that spurned him.

If he blows every save against the Orioles, that would be OK. If the Rays are losing in every game against the Orioles so that Balfour never even gets a save chance, that would also be OK.

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