After a three-year hiatus in Oakland, Grant Balfour is headed back to Tampa Bay.
The All-Star closer has agreed to sign a two-year, $12 million deal. It is still pending a physical and that's tripped up Balfour once this offseason (see below). Balfour had previously pitched for the Rays from 2007-10 and actually posted his best season in 2008, when he had a 1.54 ERA (287 ERA+) and 0.89 WHIP with 82 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings.
Balfour, 36, saved 38 games in 41 chances with a 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings last season for the Athletics. His entrance to Metallica's "One" along with the fans going all "Balfour Rage" had become the popular fixture in O.co Coliseum.
Speaking of which, Balfour's outward and even verbal intensity on the mound is unrivaled. It caused a spat between Balfour and Victor Martinez during the playoffs, for example. And on that note, we can't mention Balfour signing in the AL East without bringing up that he had agreed upon a deal earlier this offseason with the Orioles -- and said deal fell apart when the Orioles didn't like his medicals.
Balfour was angry with the Orioles and even called general manager Dan Duquette to tell him so. Well, Balfour won't have to wait long to get a piece of the O's, because the Rays head to Baltimore for a three game series April 14-16.
Expect Balfour to be the full-time closer from Day 1 for Joe Maddon. Heath Bell, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee were previously candidates to take over the job vacated by free agent Fernando Rodney.