Tag: Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

Rays sign reliever Grant Balfour to a minor league deal


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.

Released by the Rays, Grant Balfour is “on the Cubs’ radar”

Grant Balfour

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.

Rays release Grant Balfour, eat $7 million

Grant Balfour

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.

Rays designate Grant Balfour for assignment

Grant Balfour

Per the Rays on Twitter, the club has designated reliever Grant Balfour for assignment. To take Balfour’s spot on the 25-man roster, the Rays have promoted reliever Brandon Gomes from Triple-A Durham.

Balfour hadn’t been scored upon in 3 2/3 innings coming into Saturday night’s game against the Yankees. That, however, changed rather abruptly. The seventh inning began with starter Jake Odorizzi allowing a lead-off single. Manager Kevin Cash immediately replaced Odorizzi with C.J. Riefenhauser, but the Yankees continued to rally, scoring twice on two singles, a double, and a sacrifice fly.

Balfour entered with runners on first and second and one out. He walked Alex Rodriguez to load the bases, induced a sacrifice fly from Mark Teixeira, hit Brian McCann to re-load the bases, allowed a grand slam to Chris Young, walked Chase Headley, uncorked a wild pitch, walked Stephen Drew, and finally got Gregorio Petit to foul out to end the inning. The Yankees led 9-0, the score by which they would eventually win. Balfour’s line: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. His ERA ballooned to 6.23.

The 37-year-old Balfour is earning a $7 million salary from the Rays. Considering he struggled immensely last season and his velocity has fallen from 93.4 MPH on average in 2013 to 91.6 last season and 89.7 MPH this season, Balfour may not draw much interest from other teams.

2015 Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Cash

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Tampa Bay Rays

The Big Question: Is the party over?

The party I refer to is the seven-season party in which the Rays were competitive. Or maybe just six, as they only won 77 games last year. But perceptions and expectations matter, right? People thought they’d contend last year. When the season started there was hope. This, in contrast, to the feeling Devil Rays fans had between 1998 and 2007. What I’m really asking is if, for the first time since the Rays took control of the AL East midway through the 2008 season, do their fans lack any basis of hope? Has the club that Andrew Friedman built and Joe Maddon managed ceased to be and are the Rays back out in the wilderness in which they roamed back when they had neon stingrays on their uniforms?

Hard to say. But we can say that the departure of Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman should not, in and of itself, cause Rays fans to despair. Kevin Cash is a rookie manager, but he comes from a good pedigree, having been mentored by Terry Francona for the past few years. Matt Silverman may not be a household name, but he served in the same front office as Friedman for quite a long time. It’s not like the wheel which rolled the Rays into contention is being totally rebuilt. In some ways it’s the same plan as before — look for bargains, trade a guy earlier rather than too late and hope that the pitching comes through — just with fresh faces implementing them. It’s not like they went out and hired Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry here.

But, on the talent side, well . . . it’s gonna be rough for the Rays to convince people, like they’ve convinced us so often in the past that, with a little luck, they can be in the thick of the AL East race. Even a generally down AL East. Their big offseason pickup: Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be a defensive liability at short. Second base looks like the witness protection program. They upgraded at DH with John Jaso, and he’ll be a positive contributor if he doesn’t have to catch. They lost Ben Zobrist who was probably their best offensive performer last year. This from a team which already had the worst offense in the American League.

Good outfield defense, some live bullpen arms and a shot at a good rotation (see below) is nice, but it’s not enough. The Rays look to be in the middle of a transition period, and shouldn’t be expected to contend.

What else is going on?

  • Offense is the real question here, but are there answers? Eh, maybe. I mean, it’s not hopeless. Evan Longoria hit a mere .253/.320/.404 last season. He’s better than that. Desmond Jennings has long been thought to have the potential to be an offensive star. He’s 28 now and hopes for sustained stardom are probably gone, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him have one or two spike years around now. A big x-factor is Steven Souza, who has raked in the minors in the past. Jaso can hit. James Loney has come back to life and died again a few times in his career. It’s not a lot to build on outside of Longoria — and it may be wishcasting to even hope for half of that stuff to break right — but I suppose it’s not nothing.
  • The rotation could be a strength, at least if you’re an optimist. Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi figure to be a solid rotation at some point this season, but it’s nowhere near a lock that they’ll all be together at once at any time. Moore, of course, is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and could be back by July. But Cobb and Smyly have had health problems this spring. Alex Colome is supposed to be there until Moore arrives, but his spring has been interrupted with pneumonia. Unlike in the past where the Rays had a “next-man-up” feel to their starting pitching, there isn’t a ton of depth to make up for injured starters anymore.
  • I mentioned Jaso catching above. He’s not likely to do a lot of that due to the pickup of Rene Rivera. Rivera has had only 673 plate appearances across six seasons as he backed up in San Diego, Minnesota and Seattle while shutting to and from the minors. He’s been knocking around forever, but he’s supposed to be an amazing defensive catcher, though. And he even hit a decent amount last year in San Diego, where he saw his most consistent playing time as a big leaguer. Could be an interesting dude.
  • The bullpen should be serviceable. The closer and setup men, some of whom may be interchangeable if Kevin Cash wants to play the hot hand, look to be Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger and Kevin Jepsen. McGee had elbow surgery this offseason and will hopefully return in the season’s first month. Jim Miller and Ernesto Frieri are knocking around. Each are projects who pitched well once but then sort of melted down. The Rays could try to rehab and flip them. Heck, they may be flipping a lot. I bet Asdrubal Cabrera is on the block by June. Like I said: team in transition.

Prediction: I can envision a path to the division title for every team in the AL East except for the Tampa Bay Rays. They are rebuilding in their own particular Tampa Bay Rays way in which the Rays are always kinda rebuilding, but there are far fewer usable parts here. I think that amounts to Fifth Place, American League East.