Original Story published 12/17:
In a curious move, the Baltimore Orioles signed former Oakland A’s fireman Grant Balfour to fill a vacancy left by the trade of their closer, Jim Johnson, …to the Oakland A’s. According to MASNs Ruch Kubatko, the deal will have Balfour make $7M over the next 2 years:
According to industry sources, the Orioles are nearing an agreement with free-agent closer Grant Balfour on a two-year deal.
One source says Balfour will receive $14 million over two years, plus $500,000 deferred each year.
The agreement will become official later today.
Balfour reportedly had a higher-paying offer from another club – believed to be two years with a vesting option – but clearly preferred to sign with the Orioles.
So in return for Jim Johnson a few weeks ago, the Orioles got 2B Jemile Weeks (replacing free agent loss 2B Brian Roberts to leave to the Yankees earlier today), then find a bargain version of the 2-time American League Leading Saves man in Johnson. The Birds are shuffling around personnel and salary trying to stay competitive with the World Champion Boston Red Sox, deep-pocketed New York Yankees, and perennial playoff contender Tampa Bay Rays. Not to mention the ever-evolving Toronto Blue Jays.
A brief Tale of the Tape on the closer the Orioles let go, and brought in.
- Jim Johnson is 30 years old, Grant Balfour will 36 by Opening Day.
- Johnson made $6.5M in 2013, Balfour $4.5M
- Johnson becomes an unrestricted FA in 2015, Balfour already there
- Johnson has 122 saves in career (101 in last 2 years), Balfour 72 (62 in last 2 years)
So the motive behind the churn for the Orioles appears to be based upon:
- They figure they won’t be able to retain Johnson past 2014
- With Balfour, they get a little price break and have a closer through 2015
- Balfour might be able to match Johnson’s save count with as many close games as the Orioles play
- They got Weeks in return for Johnson to allow payroll savings with the departure of Brian Roberts.
The Orioles have to be creative to stay competitive, this shuffling isn’t a bad idea. They’re just going to need Balfour to not tail off in his late 30’s.
– David Whitlock