Grant Balfour’s deal with Orioles in “serious jeopardy” due to shoulder issue

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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.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.