The Orioles reportedly reached a two-year, $15 million deal with free agent closer Grant Balfour earlier this week, but the agreement has hit a snag.
According to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com, Balfour’s deal with Baltimore is in serious jeopardy due to issues with his physical that “need to be resolved.” While the signing was supposed to be announced today, there’s now a chance that it won’t happen at all. Kubatko hears that official word one way or the other could come by tomorrow.
The nature of Balfour’s issue isn’t yet known. The 35-year-old didn’t spend any time on the disabled list this past season, but he did have knee surgery during spring training. He previously had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in 2006.
John Axford and Joaquin Benoit have both signed elsewhere this week, so if the Orioles are forced to move on from Balfour, they will likely consider names like Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez. Kubatko hears that they have checked the medical records on Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, but neither pitcher is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
UPDATE: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the issue is with Balfour’s shoulder. As we mentioned above, he previously had surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff, but hasn’t had any problems since.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.
Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.
Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.
There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.