Tampa Bay has been quietly making moves this offseason, adding Heath Bell and Ryan Hanigan in December and adding Logan Forsythe yesterday from San Diego. After reaching an agreement with Grant Balfour they presumedly have added a new closer.
Balfour, who was previously signed by the Baltimore Orioles for $3 million more, had his contract voided due to a bad physical with controversy surrounding the results. From one AL East team to the other, Balfour has found his home on the Rays instead.
The 36-year-old Australian native had a stellar 2013 campaign, posting 38 saves and a 2.59 ERA for the AL West champion A’s. Balfour has thrown his last three seasons in Oakland, and has been remarkably consistant, posting ERA’s all between 2.47 and 2.59 in between 62 and 74.2 innings.
After posting nearly identical K/9 ratios in 2011 and 2013, Balfour saw that number leap despite dwindling velocity on his fastball, reaching 10.3 K/9, his highest rate since 2008. Of course, going back there traces Balfour back to his previous stint with the Rays, where he pitched for four years form 2007-2010, posting the best season of his career in 2008.
For Tampa, this is likely its last bullpen move with Heath Bell, Joel Peralta and Jake Mcgee all on board to provide late inning relief. The Rays have more than likely made most of their major moves already, with the only unfinished business being the possibility of trading David Price. Balfour’s signing leaves Fernando Rodney as the only major closer left on the market.
Of course, Balfour previously played in Tampa and has returned after he failed to sign with the Orioles and Rodney, the Rays’ closer last year, is rumored to be heavily involved in talks with the Orioles. In a short span, two AL East teams may have found their 2014 closer.