Earlier this afternoon word began to circulate that the Tampa Bay Rays plan a “significant baseball-related announcement” today, and that the team’s owner, GM and manager will all be on hand for it. While many folks had a lot of fun speculating fantastical possibilities, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the Rays are “deep into discussions with closer Grant Balfour. Suggesting that the announcement today will be a signing.
Balfour had a deal in place with the Orioles last month, but the team put the kibosh on it due to concerns about his wrist that they say came up during his physical. Balfour forcefully denied that anything was wrong with him.
Balfour posted a 2.35 ERA in his three years with Oakland while notching 64 saves. He pitched for the Rays from 2007 through 2010, so this would be a homecoming. And being in the same division as the Orioles, expect a lot of glares up to the GM’s box every time he closes one out in Baltimore.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.