LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Orioles are in the market for a closer and, as of last night, they were pursuing free agent Grant Balfour and it sounds like they are clearly making progress on that front.
In an interview this morning with MASNSports.com, former Orioles executive Jim Duquette of Sirius XM Radio said the club was the front-runner last night to get Balfour, although a deal was not yet quite at the finish line.
"The guy that I keep hearing his name mentioned over in the closer market is Grant Balfour," Duquette said. "Balfour, as we know, was one of the top closers in the American League. I think he'd be a great fit. I talked to his agent last night and he said the Orioles were the frontrunner, but it didn't seem like it was that close. That is why we have these meetings. When you can speed things up pretty quickly, which might take a normal week or 10 days to get something, you can get it done in a day or two here."
What kind of a contract might it take to get him?
"It is not going to be $10 million like we saw with Jim Johnson," Duquette said. "Likely, it would probably be around a three- or potentially four-year deal in that $7-8 (million) range. When you start to tie money up in that area it can be restrictive on what you can do on the offensive side."
A 35-year-old right-hander, Balfour went 1-3 with a 2.59 ERA and 38 saves for Oakland. He averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Balfour was 38-of-41 in save chances in 2013 and 24-of-26 the year before that. His combined 62-of-67 those two years produces a save percentage of 92.5 percent.
He is known for his exuberance on the mound when he screams and gestures during his outings. He is certainly not lacking for intensity.
Free agent designated hitter Raul Ibanez has the same agent as Balfour. The O's could potentially sign both players to a combined 2014 salary comparable to what Johnson was slated to get.