Nationals interested in free agent Grant Balfour

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The Orioles scrapped a two-year, $15 million pact with free agent right-hander Grant Balfour after a pre-signing physical revealed some previously-undiscovered issues in the reliever’s wrist and knee.

But Balfour shouldn’t be out of work much longer.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the 36-year-old native of Sydney, Australia is now drawing interest from the Nationals, who could be looking to trade Drew Storen in the coming weeks.

Rafael Soriano is expected to serve as Washington’s closer in 2014 and Tyler Clippard will be the setup man. Balfour would slide into the seventh-inning role if Storen, whose price is rising in arbitration, is moved.

Balfour posted an outstanding 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings over his final two seasons (2012-2013) with the Oakland A’s. He also saved 62 games in 67 attempts.

Ketel Marte shut down with back injury

Ketel Marte
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With just over a week left in the regular season, the Diamondbacks have elected to shut down infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte. Marte has been dealing with some lower back inflammation and stiffness over the last few days; on Friday, the team revealed that he was diagnosed with a stress reaction as well.

It doesn’t look as though the injury will compromise Marte’s 2020 campaign, but as Craig noted on Wednesday, his absence will likely have some effect on his NL MVP candidacy. The 25-year-old will wrap his first All-Star season with a .329/.389/.592 batting line, 32 home runs, a .981 OPS, and a staggering, career-best 7.1 fWAR through 628 plate appearances.

Marte told reporters Thursday that the back pain had been an issue “for the past two months,” though he didn’t comment on the severity of the injury. Despite his ability to play through the pain since July, the issue has clearly escalated in the last week or so. Although the loss of their most valuable contributor may have a negative impact on the D-backs’ chances of competing in the postseason, it’s undeniably a wise move to let Marte recuperate rather than pushing him to play for another week and running the risk of further injury.

Entering Friday’s series against the Padres — their last road series of the regular season — Arizona still has a sizable gap to close in order to earn one of two NL wild card spots. They’re five games out of postseason contention, with the Nationals, Brewers, Cubs, Mets, and Phillies ahead of them.