Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour may file a grievance over Orioles’ decision to back out of contract

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that free agent reliever Grant Balfour is considering filing a grievance over the Orioles’ recent decision to back out of a two-year, $15 million contract. Balfour contends he is as healthy as ever, and multiple doctors agree with him.

It is very hard to see what the Orioles are seeing, especially when no one else is seeing it. Remember that scene in Mallrats where the guy is staring at the painting looking for the hidden drawing, and everybody else walks by and sees it immediately? That’s the Orioles.

Balfour has pitched in at least 50 games per season dating back to 2008, his first full, healthy season after undergoing labrum and rotator cuff surgery in September 2005. He has compiled a 2.74 ERA in 380.1 relief innings with a 27 percent strikeout rate and nine percent walk rate. The O’s were getting an elite closer at a market rate — the Padres are paying Joaquin Benoit just about what the Orioles would have paid Balfour — so they must have seen something, real or not, that they didn’t like.

Balfour’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, responded to the situation in a press release. Via Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun:

“Grant is completely healthy and that was told to us today by Dr. Koco Eaton, a well-respected club physician (with the Tampa Bay Rays). Dr. Eaton’s opinion is based upon the fact that the MRI which was taken today is the same as the MRI which was taken in 2011 as a condition of the three-year contract that Grant signed with the A’s. Dr. Tim Kremchek (Cincinnati Reds), another well-respected club physician, reviewed the Orioles’ medical report and advised that he is remarkably impressed that there has been little change in Grant’s arm for almost 10 years. Now factor into the equation that Grant was a 2013 All-Star, pitched 65 games and another 3 scoreless innings in the postseason with a 94-95 mph fastball. The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds.”

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Orioles have turned their attention to Fernando Rodney in the meantime.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.