As we learned yesterday, the Rays have signed Grant Balfour to a 2-year, $12 million contract. Over the course of the day, we learned a few things about the Rays and about Balfour.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Balfour turned down a bigger contract offer from the Mets. Balfour also indicated during the press conference that there may have been other bigger offers but that he preferred to play for the Rays and he wanted to be closer to his home which is still in the area.
Joe Maddon also unleashed the “c-word” (his word) by saying The Mad Australian will indeed be the closer. Of course, the Rays always have a closer. But Maddon likes to stay away from the word, in part, because there are fewer complications when he does decide to use somebody else in the ninth inning.
This also suggests that being named the closer was important to Balfour. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for Maddon to change what has worked in the past.
The Rays have also established a pattern in how they build a bullpen. The pick up some young relievers and some mid-level arms early in the off-season. Then they swoop in and grab one high-priced reliever to be the “c-word.”
Rafael Soriano was picked up in December. Kyle Farnsworth was signed in February. Fernando Rodney was signed in January. Now the Rays pick up Balfour in late January.
The obvious benefit is that the Rays can wait for the leftover closers to start getting desperate and lower their prices as other teams have already found closers. The extra benefit is that the Rays can sign guys with the illusion that they will be able to compete for the closer’s job.
Would Bell have signed with the Rays if they already had promised Balfour the ninth inning? Maybe, but when Bell was signed he did make it clear that he wanted to compete for the ninth inning job. Brain fart. Bell was brought in via trade.
In the end, $12 million may have been a bit much for Balfour. He was dominant in 2013, but he may have a hard time repeating the same success, especially over two seasons. But this year’s bullpen was put together the same way as previous bullpens and the formula always seems to work.
One final thought: How much fun are games against the Orioles going to be this year? They basically cost him $3 million by backing out of the deal and many people think it only happened because owner Peter Angelos stepped in and overruled the signing forcing the team to find a way out of the deal.
Here are a few other odds and ends on the Balfour signing…
- To make room for Grant Balfour on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated Pedro Figueroa for assignment. Figueroa had recently been claimed off of waivers.
- Grant Balfour will make $5 million in 2014 and $7 million in 2015. [Marc Topkin]
- Stuart Sternberg answered some questions from the media and indicated that the team is not going “all in.” [WTSP.com]
- Mark Simon of ESPN takes a look at Grant Balfour’s pitching tendencies. [@msimonespn]