Before Grant Balfour established himself as a top-notch closer with the Oakland Athletics the previous three seasons, he was a setup man for the Tampa Bay Rays. When Balfour's free agent deal with the Baltimore Orioles fell apart because of health concerns, the 36-year-old right hander said he found a comfortable fit in Tampa Bay because it felt like "home."
And so, on Thursday, Balfour agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal to be the Rays' bullpen stopper. That's less than the two-year, $15 million contract that he nearly signed with the Orioles. And it's true about Balfour wanting that "home" vibe and the reunion with manager Joe Maddon. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Balfour turned down more money from the Mets to join the Rays. He lives, by the way, in Clearwater, Fla.
Maddon, the Rays' wacky manager, then unleashed a peculiar quote about Balfour joining the team, telling reporters:
"We're going to use the c-word this year."
Say what, Joe? Did he mean crocodile because Balfour is Australian? Or curse? Because Balfour is known to yell swear words on the mound — to himself — while he's pitching. Did he meant curveball? Or coordinated — as in the Rays' coordinated travel outfits? Cartwheels? Candy corn? Calendars?
Ohhhh, Maddon meant closer. Because Balfour used to be a setup man and now he's the closer. Got it. For future talks, we advise that Joe Maddon be careful about using "the c-word." Some people might get the wrong idea. There's already a "c-word" and it's quite wretched.
Vernacular aside, Balfour assured his new team that he's 100% healthy and happy to be back.
"It has always been a place that has been on my radar," Balfour said. "To be honest, I never wanted to leave here."
In an interesting development: Now the Orioles are looking at Fernando Rodney, the free-agent closer who spent the last two years with the Rays. The Orioles traded their closer, Jim Johnson, to the A's earlier in the offseason, before trying to add Balfour.
The closer swap never ends.
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