The saga of the Orioles' pursuit of free agent closer Grant Balfour may finally be winding to a conclusion:
Sources: Balfour close to joining #Orioles on two-year contract.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2013
All along, it's seemed a question of whether Balfour or the O's would blink first regarding an option year of some kind for a third year. If this is the case, then it looks like Balfour was the one to blink.
Reports over the weekend from people who may or may not have known what they are talking about indicated that Balfour could get in the realm of $7 million per year. So the Orioles basically get Grant Balfour and Ryan Webb for Jim Johnson. There is some value in getting the extra year of Balfour guaranteed, if Balfour turns out to be a guy who you want for two years.
MASN's Roch Kubatko reports that those people may have known what they are talking about:
Balfour deal with #orioles: 2 years, $14 million with $500,000 deferred each year. Per source.— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 17, 2013
The $1 million deferred is not included in the $14 million, so Balfour will get $15 million in total from this contract. The contract appears to be a done deal, pending a physical.
One thing that may be encouraging is the idea that Balfour eschewed a better offer because he liked the O's situation the best:
I'm also hearing Balfour had a better offer elsewhere that he turned down because he likes #Orioles situation best.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 17, 2013
That's from an Athletics beat writer who has covered Balfour for the past three seasons. There were reports that at least one team was offering an option year for a third year, but it seems Balfour likes the O's chances better than that other team. We are living in strange times where the O's are seen as the more competitive free agent option by anyone.
Over the last three seasons in Oakland, Balfour pitched 199.1 innings, managed a 2.53 ERA and 1.043 WHIP while striking out over a batter per inning but giving up walks at a rate of 3.4 per nine innings. He also allowed his share of home runs, if not a Matuszian number of home runs. How his stuff will play in Camden Yards makes me nervous, but then, I'm still waiting for Jesus Montero to hit a walk-off home run in that 18-inning marathon game in Seattle last year.