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.

Must-Click Link: The Best “Irony Jerseys”

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Our old friend Joe Posnanski tackles a venerable topic over at MLB.com: guys you totally forgot played for a given team. Mostly superstars who had brief stops at non-signature stations at the end of their careers. Or guys, like Mike Piazza and Reggie Jackson, who were with a team for a blink of an eye in between more famous way stations.

We’ve all had this conversation before: remember Willie Mays with the Mets? Doc Gooden with the Astros? John Smoltz with the Cardinals? Heck, I had forgotten about Smoltz with the Cardinals and he was a star on my favorite team once upon a time.

Posnanski calls them “Irony Jerseys.” That’s pretty appropriate, as one can totally imagine someone buying, say, that Dale Murphy Rockies jersey in the name of obscurity. Whatever you call it, it’s a good read.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get my Ted Simmons Braves jersey for a party at some place uptown that you’ve probably never heard of.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

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The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.