Following a disastrous outing against the Yankees on April 18, reliever Grant Balfour was designated for assignment by the Rays. He was granted his release several days ago, as the Rays chose to eat his $7 million salary for the 2015 season.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, however, reports that the Rays have signed the 37-year-old Balfour again, this time to a minor league deal. He is expected to report to Triple-A Durham.
Over the last two seasons, Balfour’s fastball velocity declined precipitously, going from 93.4 MPH on average in 2013 to 91.6 MPH last season and 89.4 MPH in a handful of innings to begin the 2015 campaign. He finished with a 4.91 ERA and a 57/41 K/BB ratio in 62 1/3 innings last year.
Grant Balfour is available for the league minimum salary after being released by the Rays and Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the veteran reliever is “on the Cubs’ radar.”
Balfour turned his career around in Tampa Bay when Joe Maddon was the Rays’ manager, so there’s an obvious connection there, and the Cubs are looking for some bullpen help thanks to multiple injuries to key setup men.
However, at age 37 it’s unclear how much help Balfour is capable of being at this point. Tampa Bay cut him loose while eating about $6 million in guaranteed salary, which isn’t something the budget-conscious Rays did lightly, and since the beginning of last season Balfour has a 5.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 45 walks in 67 innings.
He no longer throws hard enough to simply overpower hitters and make up for his poor control, but as a low-cost, no-risk pickup perhaps Balfour has 40 decent innings left in him as a middle reliever.
Predictably no teams were interested in claiming Grant Balfour and the remainder of his $7 million salary off waivers, so the Rays have released the 37-year-old right-hander after designating him for assignment.
Last offseason the Orioles backed out a two-year, $15 million deal with Balfour over concerns about the health of his arm and he eventually signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays. Balfour had a lot of success in Tampa Bay previously, turning his career around from 2008-2010, but he struggled last year and looked even worse in six appearances this season.
At age 37 he’s likely finished as a late-inning bullpen option, because Balfour’s once-electric raw stuff is no longer good enough to make up for poor control, but he could latch on somewhere as a middle reliever now that the Rays are on the hook for his entire salary.