Grant Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Orioles in mid-December before they claimed he failed a physical exam and nixed the deal.
More than a month later Balfour signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Rays and at the press conference yesterday he repeatedly stressed that he’s “100 percent healthy” while implying that the Orioles did him dirty:
I’ve had an eventful offseason to say the least. That was a bit of a stressful thing to see that go down knowing that I knew I was perfectly healthy. I did take a physical [for the Rays], and I passed with flying colors, apparently.
What happened there in Baltimore is in the past. It was something that, to be honest with you, I had other offers on the table and other teams telling me that I didn’t have to take a physical because they believed in my medicals and everything that they’d heard, that I didn’t even have to go and take a physical with them.
I’m totally healthy–100 percent healthy–and you’ll see that when I take the field April 1 here. I’m looking forward to it.
Balfour ultimately landed in a good spot, with a good team and a multi-year contract at age 37, but the Orioles backing out of the original deal cost him $3 million and for a pitcher getting what may be his last big payday that’s probably pretty tough to swallow.
It should be interesting when he takes the mound against Baltimore for the first time.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.