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.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.