Tommy Hunter time? Orioles unlikely to sign a closer after botched Grant Balfour deal

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When the Orioles’ contract with Grant Balfour fell apart over concerns about the health of his arm the assumption was that Baltimore would sign a different free agent to take over for Jim Johnson as closer.

However, that hasn’t happened yet and now Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles “are no longer focusing on a potential closer.”

According to Connolly they’re prepared to go into the season with in-house options for ninth-inning duties. In that scenario Tommy Hunter would be the presumed favorite after throwing 86 innings with a 2.81 ERA and 68/14 K/BB ratio in a setup role last season and Ryan Webb could also get a look.

It sounds like a Manny Machado deal is all but done

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It occurs to me that maybe one of the reasons for all of the incremental rumors about Manny Machado that I mentioned earlier this morning is that he’s . . . already traded? Basically anyway?

I say this based on the latest report from Olney in which he says that the Orioles have the structure of a Manny Machado trade in place and are “going through the medicals/paperwork portion of the transaction.” He quickly adds that the Dodgers “have been very invested” in pursuing Machado but that “a deal is not finished yet.”

Here’s the actual tweet, since we’re parsing words:

As someone who has read trade rumors like it’s his job for the past decade, mostly because it is his job, here’s what Olney’s tweet says to me (and yes, this is all speculation, but it makes a ton of sense):

1. The Orioles have agreed to trade Machado, probably to the Dodgers since they’re mentioned first, but no one has given Buster the OK to actually report it as a done deal. The “not finished yet” is protection, showing that he didn’t spill the beans, but the mention of the Dodgers is a wink to folks to let them know that, yep, he knows what time it is;

2. They probably haven’t given him the OK to report it as a done deal because they want Machado to appear in the All-Star Game as an Oriole;

3. The second he’s removed from the game tonight, the news goes public. Or, if MLB is putting its finger on the scale and doesn’t want to distract from the All-Star Game, the second the game is over. Personally, though, if I was MLB I’d let the news come out during the game because people will stay tuned to wait for it.

Anyway, like I said, speculation. But I feel like it’s right.