Now the door is closed on Balfour (updated)

A month after the Orioles pulled back their offer to free agent closer Grant Balfour, he’s reportedly on the verge of signing with the division-rival Tampa Bay Rays.

Is anyone really surprised?

Balfour has landed another two-year deal, according to multiple reports. The Tampa Bay Times confirmed that it’s worth $12 million.

The Rays scheduled a press conference for later today. Now, we know the reason behind it.

As you may have heard, the Orioles were prepared to sign Balfour for $15 million over two years before concerns over his physical caused them to go in another direction. The news broke back on Dec. 19, with multiple industry sources confirming it. Today is Jan. 23.

The Orioles kept the door open as Balfour seemed intent on burning bridges. They would have reconsidered if able to entice him with a one-year deal, perhaps including an option for 2015, but he found a taker at two guaranteed years.

The Rays were the immediate favorites to sign Balfour, who employed him from 2007-10. Their team physician, Dr. Koko Eaton, publicly refuted the Orioles’ concerns over the physical, drawing the ire of manager Buck Showalter, among others in the organization.

Showalter described outside physicians commenting on the Orioles’ physical as “borderline unethical.”

Also, the Rays have been shopping late-inning reliever Heath Bell. The Orioles didn’t show any interest.

Balfour has converted 62 of 67 save opportunities over the past two seasons. He’s posted ERAs of 2.28, 2.47, 2.53 and 2.59 over the last four seasons.

Balfour registered 38 saves for the Athletics this year and allowed 48 hits, walked 27 and struck out 72 in 62 2/3 innings. The A’s replaced him with former Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who avoided arbitration by signing for $10 million.

Tommy Hunter is the current favorite to close for the Orioles this season, as they continue to focus on adding another starter for their rotation.

The Rays’ first trip to Camden Yards is scheduled for April 14-16. The Orioles make their first trip to Tropicana Field for a three-game series on May 6-8.

Should be interesting, to say the least.

Meanwhile, Matt Garza has reached agreement on a four-year, $52 million deal with the Brewers, according to Fox Sports. The Orioles were never in the running for him.

Update: Jonah Keri of Grantland just sent the following tweet:

“Source: #Orioles making progress on Fernando Rodney. O’s expected to make 1 other significant move as well.”

Stay tuned.

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