Sep 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Grant Balfour (50) reacts after the Athletics recorded the last out of the game against the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Rangers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Showing Interest in Free Agent Closer Grant Balfour


The Detroit Tigers are showing interest in Oakland Athletics’ free agent closer Grant Balfour, according to Susan Sulsser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Free-agent closer Grant Balfour, who set an A’s team record for consecutive saves last season, is attracting notice from several deep-pocketed potential contenders, including the Tigers and Yankees, according to a major-league source.

The bullpen – specifically closer – is probably the one place on the roster that the Tigers are sure to address in free agency this offseason. Dave Dombrowksi has been quoted basically saying as much:

“We’re going to have a closer — we’re going to pursue somebody to pitch at the back end of the bullpen,” Dombrowski said. “Joaquin (Benoit) is in that group, but there are a lot of closers out there. It’s the one area where there are a lot of guys.

Balfour, who will turn 36 before the 2014 season begins, has put up an impressive 2.53 ERA in his three seasons in Oakland, but his large home-road splits might be concerning for a team that doesn’t play 81 games inside O.co Coliseum.

Home ERA

Away ERA

Home xFIP

Away xFIP

2013

1.98

3.42

3.01

3.98

2012

1.06

4.45

3.07

4.82

2011

1.80

3.33

3.54

3.61

TOT

1.58

3.78

3.20

4.18

Some degree of home field advantage is expected in every player’s stat line, but he’s been more than two runs worse on the road in terms of ERA and basically one run worse in terms of xFIP. Some sample size caveats should apply even though we’re looking at three years worth of data, but, even if we leave the home-road split concerns aside, his defense independent numbers should leave us wondering if he’ll continue to be a dominating pitcher going forward.

His total xFIP for the last three years was 3.62 which is only marginally better than the league average for American League relievers (3.80 in 2013). For comparison, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit put up xFIPs of 2.99 and 3.16 last season respectively.

This isn’t to say I’d be against Balfour. He’ll be an above average reliever next year, and the Tigers really need bullpen arms they can count on, but if they get him it would be with the knowledge that he’s probably more of a bargain-type closer than an absolute shutdown closer. Hopefully we’d be talking somewhere in the range of $5 million in average annual value.

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