Orioles, Grant Balfour going back and forth on potential contract

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Jen Royle of the Boston Herald is reporting that the Orioles and free agent reliever Grant Balfour are still hammering out their differences on a potential contract. The Orioles preferred a two-year deal at $6 million per year; Balfour wanted a three-year deal at $8 million per year with a vesting option. Royle’s source says there won’t be a vesting option. Royle also adds that Balfour has been offered a “sweet” deal from an unnamed team but the right-hander would prefer to work things out with the O’s.

Balfour, who turns 36 years old, is one of the few high-quality relievers still available in free agency. Joaquin Benoit remains available, and following him, Fernando Rodney would move up in the free agency rankings. Every other reliever has some inherent risk due to some combination of age, injury history, and/or inconsistency.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.