Grant Balfour AP

Grant Balfour now drawing interest from the Rays

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Grant Balfour’s contract with the Orioles was nixed over a disputed issue with his shoulder, but that messy situation isn’t scaring off one of his former teams. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, the Rays “are in” on the All-Star closer.

The Rays are somewhat of a logical fit at this point, as they are in the market for a closer and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Rays team physician Koco Eaton performed an MRI on Balfour’s shoulder yesterday and was surprised that the Orioles backed out of the deal. With the market starting to shrink for closers, they could be able to get him for a discount rate. And hey, Balfour would get a chance to see a lot of the Orioles if he pitches in the American League East.

Balfour previously pitched for the Rays from 2007-2010, posting a 3.33 ERA in 203 appearances as a set-up man. It was there that he enjoyed his first real success in the majors.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.