October 5, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcherGrant Balfour
(50) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning in game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Tigers 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, the Baltimore Orioles signed free agent reliever Grant Balfour to a 2-year $15 million deal. Later in the week, Balfour failed his physical as the Orioles stated that they were dissatisfied with the results of his physical. Balfour has since been seen by other physicians who say that his arm is fine and he is healthy. Balfour had surgery in 2005 to repair his rotator cuff and labrum. Balfour did not pitch in 2005 or 2006. In 2007, Balfour appeared in 25 games. From 2008-2013, Balfour has appeared in at least 51 games and has appeared in as many as 75 games which he did in 2012. In 2013, Balfour appeared in 65 games, compiling 62.2 innings pitched.
Balfour has been closing in Oakland for the past few years compiling 104 saves in 3 seasons with a 3.18 ERA and 1.176 WHIP. The A’s signed former Orioles closer Jim Johnson so it seems Balfour will not be heading back to Oakland. It has been rumored that the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays are interested in Balfour who still wants to be a closer.
If Balfour is not offered the closing job with any of the teams listed above and he would be willing to move into a set-up role, he would be a great fit in Detroit. If teams are still hesitant to make a move on Balfour because they fear a shoulder injury, he could be on the market for cheap. Balfour and Victor Martinez traded some friendly words in game 3 of the ALDS, but if Balfour came to Detroit, it would be to win, not to make friends.
The Tigers bullpen scares no one but Tigers fans, and Balfour would shore up this bullpen to a point that people may be comfortable with it. There are still a few options left in free agency for the bullpen that have had past success, but have been prone to injuries. These options include Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, both of whom have closing experience. Bailey, Hanrahan, and Balfour are all still free agents that I suggested the Tigers could sign earlier this offseason along with Joe Nathan who the Tigers have already signed. Joba Chaimberlain was signed earlier in the offseason and he will probably take on the role Octavio Dotel had with the Tigers in 2012 before his injury in 2013, but Balfour, Hanrahan, and Bailey seem like better late inning options that could compliment Bruce Rondon, Ian Krol, and Nathan (if he needs a night off).