Updating the Balfour negotiations

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Orioles are creating quite a buzz this morning in their pursuit of a closer.

While they continue to negotiate with John Axford's agent - meeting with him this week at the Winter Meetings - it's become apparent that Grant Balfour is their No. 1 choice to serve as the ninth inning specialist in 2014.

The Orioles are expected to make an offer to Balfour later today, and they have emerged as the frontrunners to sign him.

The Orioles have talked parameters with Balfour's agent. Next comes the formal offer.

The Orioles balked at giving Jim Johnson $10-$11 million next season, his projecting earning in arbitration. However, they could sign Balfour to a two-year deal for less in average annual value.

Again, no deal is in place, despite the rumors. But I'm feeling confident that Balfour will eventually agree to terms.

Balfour, who turns 36 later this month, has saved 62 games in 67 chances over the past two seasons. He's registered ERAs of 2.28, 2.47, 2.53 and 2.59 over the past four.

Balfour is 28-17 with a 3.27 ERA in 10 major league seasons, including four with the Rays. He's pitched in the American League East, which brings an added appeal to the Orioles.

The Orioles would basically be trading closers with the Athletics, who acquired Johnson on Dec. 2 for infielder Jemile Weeks and a PTBN. Johnson leads the majors with 101 saves over the past two seasons, but he went 50-for-59 this year.

The Orioles attempted to negotiate an extension with Johnson before the trade, but industry sources say his agent countered with a four-year proposal in the $45-$50 million range.

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