Rays sign Grant Balfour to two-year, $12 million deal

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Joe Maddon certainly has a way with words.

After his deal with the Orioles fell apart, the Rays swooped in, signing free agent closer Grant Balfour to a two-year, $12 million deal, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Balfour appeared to be headed for the Baltimore bullpen in December, but nebulous medical issues caused the deal to fall apart after Balfour physical with team doctors.

The O's concerns were believed to "at least partly" involve Balfour's right shoulder, but the red flags that caused the team to back out of the deal were later revealed to be in regard to his wrist and knee.

The 36-year-old right hander could still file a grievance against the Orioles with the MLB Players Association, citing the clean bill of health he received from Reds' and Rays' team doctors.

Since the Tampa Bay medical staff has already given him a clean bill of health, the Rays were in an unique position to pounce on Balfour after he re-entered the market. As expected, he passed his physical examination "with flying colors."

The Rays will pay him $5 million in 2014 and $7 million in 2015. The deal nets them one of the best available relievers at an extremely discounted rate -- MLB Trade Rumors' Steve Adams predicted a two-year, $18 million deal.

"We're going to use the c-word this year."

That's Rays manager Joe Maddon on his new ninth-inning weapon.

Balfour is likely to serve as the Rays CLOSER next season -- a role he settled into nicely in Oakland. In his first two seasons as a closer for the Athletics, Balfour converted 62 of 67 save opportunities with a 2.56 ERA.

The Rays are projected to set a new all-time high in payroll -- $72.8 million. General manager Andrew Friedman has called that figure "unaffordable," but getting a howlingly talented pitcher on such a team-friendly deal appears to have been too good for the team to pass up.

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