UPDATE: Balfour's deal with the Orioles is officially toast, and he is none too pleased about it. The big right-hander lashed out at Dan Duquette and company after the news went public, and could end up filing a grievance with the Players Association against Baltimore, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The O's posited that issues had emerged with Balfour's shoulder during his physical. However, two other team doctors who have examined Balfour recently -- Koco Eaton of the Rays and Tim Kremcheck of the Reds -- indicated that they saw nothing abnormal in his X-rays, indicating that the O's might have just developed cold feet.
ORIGINAL: The Baltimore Orioles thought they had their new closer locked down when they agreed to a two-year deal with Grant Balfour. A serious shoulder issue emerged during the Aussie right-hander's physical, however, and now Baltimore is reportedly shifting its focus to Fernando Rodney, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
No official decision has been made in regards to Balfour, but it seems clear that the O's are not comfortable going forward with the two-year, $15 million contract the two sides originally agreed on. There's still a chance that Baltimore hangs on to Balfour on an adjusted deal -- like the Red Sox did with Mike Napoli last year -- but the club evidently doesn't want to put all their eggs in that basket.
GM Dan Duquette is expected to speak on the developing Balfour situation sometime Friday afternoon.
The Orioles had a number of talks with Rodney before coming to their agreement with Balfour, per Connolly, so it's not as though they're coming at the former Rays closer out of the blue. Rodney is reportedly seeking a much bigger deal than Balfour got -- he wants $10 million a year -- but the O's might be willing to shell out that extra dough knowing he's now their best option.
Rodney was something of a reclamation project when he joined Tampa Bay in 2012, but he's transformed into one of the premier late-inning relievers in the game in the two years since. The 36-year-old posted a 1.91 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 141⅓ innings in his time with the Rays, saving 85 games in 95 chances. While his 2013 numbers don't quite match up with his record-setting 2012 season -- no one should be expected to duplicate a 0.68 ERA -- he was still well above average and posted a career-best strikeout rate.
Beyond Rodney, there are few Proven Closer™ types left on the market. The Orioles are unlikely to re-sign Francisco Rodriguez, so if they don't pursue Rodney that leaves them with Chris Perez and situational lefties like Scott Downs, Oliver Perez and Eric O`Flaherty.