Orioles nearing a deal with closer Grant Balfour

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Grant Balfour was said to be close to signing with the Orioles a week ago and now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides are on the verge of a two-year deal.

Balfour is 36 years old, but based on his performance as the A’s closer during the past two seasons he’s likely to be an upgrade over Jim Johnson in the ninth-inning role. This year Balfour saved 38 games with a 2.59 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, holding opponents to a .206 batting average.

Johnson racked up 50-plus saves in back-to-back seasons, but if the Orioles give Balfour that many save chances he’ll do that too. And probably with a lot more strikeouts and a lot less fan anxiety.

UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com says the two-year deal is worth $14 million.

Indians sign Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal

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The Indians have signed free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal. The pact is pending a physical.

Cabrera, 33, went unsigned this past offseason after putting up a season of .285/.324/.423 with 17 homers and 85 RBI with the White Sox and the Royals.

Cabrera will report to Columbus once he passes his physical and, according to Paul Hoynes, there are no guarantees being made to him that he’ll get playing time. That said, the Indians aren’t getting much outfield production from anyone besides Michael Brantley, and Cabrera’s status as a switch hitter would give Terry Francona some flexibility, so it would not be shocking to see him on the big club after some reps in the minors.