Orioles Fill Closer Void With Signing Of Grant Balfour

The Baltimore Orioles signed Closer Grant Balfour to a 2 YR/ 14 Million dollar contract on Tuesday. Balfour will replace Jim Johnson, who was traded to Balfour’s previous team, the Oakland Athletics, earlier in the offseason.  In an overall picture, the club almost essentially traded Jim Johnson for Jemile Weeks and Grant Balfour.  The club will save $2 – $3 MIL in payroll next campaign, while they added Second Base depth, and perhaps may have the better Relief Pitcher out of the two.  Better yet, Baltimore has their Closer scenario sewn up for the 2015 season now as well.

By Nicholas Delahanty (MLB Reports O’s Writer)  

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What the signing of Grant Balfour means to the Orioles

As the winter moves along, the Oriole faithful keeps asking the same question: when are the Orioles going to make a big move?

The beginning of the MLB Free Agency period has not been friendly to Orioles fans, as they saw their team trade away Jim Johnson, one of the best Closers in baseball, as well as part ways with Left Fielder Nate McLouth and Starting Pitcher Scott Feldman through free agency.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Orioles found out that rumors surrounding the team were actually truth, as it was announced that Grant Balfour signed a 2 YR/ 14 Million dollar deal, with $500,000 deferred each season.

Grant Balfour Rage versus the Rangers

Balfour has spent the last two seasons as the Closer for the Oakland Athletics, saving a career high 38 games during the 2013 season.  Included in those totals – was a team record of 42 straight saves that lasted between 2012 – 2013, beating the old record of 40 posted by Dennis Eckersley.

Balfour has spent the last three seasons with the Oakland Athletics, as he became the team’s full-time Closer in 2012. Over the last two years, Balfour has tallied 62 saves, with a career high 38 this past campaign. 

The 35-Year-old Australian will have big shoes to fill, as Johnson has saved 50+ games in each of the last two seasons.

Johnson figured to be due about $10 Million in arbitration, so by trading him away, the Orioles were able to use that extra money and address other needs.

Baltimore used the extra money and signed Relief Pitcher Ryan Webb to a two-year deal, which should be a nice addition to a bullpen that needs some late inning guys.

Some thought Webb would get a chance to close with the trade of Johnson, but from his small sample size (0-9 career in save opportunities) so the acquisition of Balfour allows Webb to settle into a setup role, something he grew accustomed to during his time with the Miami Marlins.

At first I was one of the biggest skeptics as to why the club would trade Johnson in the first place, especially for the return package of Jemile Weeks and a prospect that they received.

After seeing what the club has done with the money, it does make sense now, as two needs were filled for the same price as Johnson’s contract.

For a team like Baltimore who has more than one need and a spending limit, it’s important to spend the money right and efficiently in order to address as many of these needs as possible.

Brian Roberts leaves Baltimore

On Tuesday, the Orioles also lost a long-time member of their system to one of their AL East Rivals.

The team also lost long-time Second Baseman Brian Roberts, who signed a 1 YR/2 Million dollar contract with the New York Yankees on Tuesday morning.  

The 35-Year-old spent his entire 13 Year career with the O’s, but has not played more than 100 games since 2009.

Sure, Roberts has not been able to stay healthy over the past few seasons, but if he is able to string together a campaign where he can play 120+ games, it could be a low-risk, high reward pickup for the Yankees.

With the loss of Robinson Cano, the Bronx Bombers had a dire need to fill the void he left, and with the team wanting to stay until the $189 luxury tax, signing Roberts to a small deal like this makes sense.

As we hear the headlines saying that guys like Jacoby Ellsbury are “Traitors” for leaving their team and signing with another squad from the same division, is it fair to say that Roberts falls under this category?

Not a chance.

According to reports, the Orioles did not even make an offer to Roberts, as when they last checked in he was not close to signing with anyone.

The Yankees jumped on the opportunity, and to the surprise of Orioles fans everywhere, Roberts will now wear pinstripes in 2014.

Oriole fans should respect what he has done for the club, and should show a guy who gave his all for the organization some love when he returns to Camden Yards.

With a very weak free agent crop, the team will likely look internally for a replacement for Roberts, with Ryan Flaherty’s name being mentioned as an early front-runner for the position.

The team will also take a look at recently acquired Jemile Weeks and Jonathan Schoop to fill the void.

Orioles Trade for Outfielder David Lough

On Wednesday, the Orioles made another move to bolster their roster, adding Outfielder David Lough from the Kansas City Royals.

Lough, 27, appeared in 96 games for the Royals in 2013, putting up a .286 Batting Average while spending time playing all three Outfield positions.

Lough also finished eighth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting, and led all rookies in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to the Orioles press release. 

Baltimore sends Danny Valencia to Kansas City. The 29-Year-Old played in 117 games between the Orioles and Triple-A Norfolk last season, as he posted a .304 Batting Average in his 170 MLB plate appearances.

Valencia has been a utility guy since 2011, when a mediocre season as the Third Baseman for the Minnesota Twins hurt his value. 

Lough will be a good acquisition for the O’s, as they not only have him under club control until 2020, but also because he is known as being an above-average defensive player.

The Orioles hope that the left-handed Lough will be able to fill a void in the Outfield for years to come. 

What will the Orioles do next?

All the excitement of the Orioles making some kind of big splash has distracted the next important question that most people will ask: where will the club do next?

AJ Burnett would be a nice fit for the Orioles, as he lives near the Baltimore area. He also can be a leader of a pitching staff, and has prior experience pitching in the AL East Division.

Even with the moves the Orioles made this week, they still have a few holes to fill in order to compete in 2014. 

It appears as if they will try to acquire some starting pitching, as it has been reported that the team is very high on A.J. Burnett and are trying to convince him to not retire.

Adding Burnett would benefit a young rotation in many ways: not only will he eat innings, but also can mentor some of the young arms in the organization as well, plus he spent a few seasons with the Yankees, so he has some experience pitching in a rough AL East.

Before signing with the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, the Orioles were also interested in Gavin Floyd, who according to reports turned down a longer, more lucrative deal with Baltimore to take a one-year pact with Atlanta in hopes of boosting his stock for next winter.

Pitching will be a key for this team, as they look to solidify their rotation and maybe add a bullpen arm to help build the bridge to Balfour in the ninth inning. The team also could use a right-handed power hitting bat at the right price, as links to Nelson Cruz have been made numerous times over the past few weeks.

It will be interesting to see what direction the Orioles go with from here, as the acquisition of Balfour hopefully starts the trend of moves to improve the roster for 2014.

What will the Orioles do next? Starting Pitching seems to be their next target, but the team is also in need of offensive help as well, particularly a right-handed hitting corner Outfielder.  Whatever Dan Duquette decides to do, team payroll limitations are still at the forefront of any potential deal.  It should be a fun time to watch during the next 2 – 3 months.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners ***

For all of the Rosters, Depth Charts, State of the Unions and Salaries Posts that we do, please visit our dedicated page link here.

A big thanks goes out to our Guest Writer Nicholas Delahanty for preparing today’s featured article.  Nicholas is a current student at Felician College, studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in English. He served as the Broadcast and Media Relations Intern for the New Jersey Jackals in 2013, and also hosts a radio show on WRFC Felician College Radio Station called ‘Around the Bases.’ Nicholas recently started working as a broadcaster for Felician College Basketball games, and is a student-writer for the college’s monthly magazine. He volunteers as a baseball and basketball coach in Garfield, New Jersey, and also volunteers as the announcer for the town’s Junior Boilermaker Football program.

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About nickdelahantymlbreports

Team Correspondent Writer for MLBReports.com, covering the Baltimore Orioles

Posted on December 19, 2013, in Free Agency, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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