Grant Balfour surprisingly declines Rays’ arbitration offer

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Tonight is the deadline for potential free agents to either accept or decline arbitration offers.  There won’t be many surprises, but we’ll keep tabs on the more shocking decisions.

Here’s one.

According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, right-hander Grant Balfour has decided to decline the Rays’ offer of arbitration and will test the free agent market instead.

He’s a Type A free agent and will cost any team that signs him a first round draft pick, but Balfour is probably hoping that the stellar 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP that he posted over 55.1 innings this past season will lead to a multi-year contract.

It’s not known if any clubs have expressed interest in the 32-year-old Balfour thus far.

Each of the seven players that were offered arbitration by the Rays have decided to decline.

Jonny Venters is back in the majors

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The Rays announced on Wednesday that the club purchased the contract of lefty reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham. The 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to a continuous battle with arm injuries. The Rays note that he has undergone two and a half Tommy John surgeries, which is a number that seems to be in dispute.

Venters signed a minor league contract with the Rays in December. With Durham so far this season, he gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Before the injuries, Venters was among the best relievers in 2010-11. In those two seasons, he posted a combined 1.89 ERA with 189 strikeouts and 82 walks in 171 innings.