Released by the Rays, Grant Balfour is “on the Cubs’ radar”

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Grant Balfour is available for the league minimum salary after being released by the Rays and Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the veteran reliever is “on the Cubs’ radar.”

Balfour turned his career around in Tampa Bay when Joe Maddon was the Rays’ manager, so there’s an obvious connection there, and the Cubs are looking for some bullpen help thanks to multiple injuries to key setup men.

However, at age 37 it’s unclear how much help Balfour is capable of being at this point. Tampa Bay cut him loose while eating about $6 million in guaranteed salary, which isn’t something the budget-conscious Rays did lightly, and since the beginning of last season Balfour has a 5.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 45 walks in 67 innings.

He no longer throws hard enough to simply overpower hitters and make up for his poor control, but as a low-cost, no-risk pickup perhaps Balfour has 40 decent innings left in him as a middle reliever.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.