35-year-old Australian born reliever Grant Balfour is drawing plenty of interest early on in the free agency process, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Slusser notes that the Angels, Yankees, Tigers, Rockies, and Rays have all shown interest in signing the former Athletics closer.
Balfour, a native of Sydney, Australia, was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 1997. He reached the majors in 2001 at the age of 23, but didn't find success until he arrived in Tampa Bay mid-way through the 2007 season.
Balfour played a prominent role in the Rays' bullpen in 2008 as the club made a surprise run to the Fall Classic. Over the next two years, he emerged as one of the better set-up men in baseball, and following the 2010 season, Balfour signed a two year, $8 million contract with the Athletics. In three years with Oakland, Balfour had a 2.53 ERA (154 ERA+) and 5.7 WAR in just under 200 innings pitched. He took over the A's closer role in 2012 and saved 62 games over the past two years.
Balfour, who holds multiple Australian-born and Oakland Athletics pitching records, earned his first All-Star nod this past year when he replaced teammate Bartolo Colon on the AL's pitching staff. He has also pitched well in the postseason, posting a 3.20 ERA in 20 October appearances since 2004.
Among the interested parties, Detroit is particularly intriguing as Balfour and the Tigers were involved in this altercation during game 3 of last month's ALDS. However, the Tigers' bullpen was atrocious in 2013 as the staff combined to post the 7th worst bullpen ERA in baseball. Balfour's addition would give Detroit a clear 9th inning option for 2014 as last season's closer, Joaquin Benoit, is currently a free agent.
As bad as the Tigers' bullpen was in 2013, the Angels' relief crew was even worse, with a dismal 4.12 ERA. While the Angels could certainly use Balfour's help, they have bigger, more immediate holes to fill, especially in the rotation.