Orioles have interest in closers John Axford and Grant Balfour
The Orioles are looking to bolster their bullpen with a free agent closer, potentially John Axford or Grant Balfour.
Less than a week after trading Jim Johnson to the Athletics, the Orioles have interest in free agent closers John Axford and Grant Balfour, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman notes Chris Perez could be a fit as well.
Johnson, who led baseball in both saves (50) and blown saves (nine) this season, was traded in a money saving move. He is projected to earn $11 million or so in 2014 and Baltimore is bumping up against their payroll limit. Axford and Balfour won't be cheap, but they also won't command $11 million salaries.
The Orioles have an internal closer option in right-hander Tommy Hunter, who had a 2.81 ERA (150 ERA+) in 86 1/3 innings in 2013. Others like Darren O'Day or the recently signed Ryan Webb could be in the mix if the team is willing to go into the year with an unproven closer. Bud Norris is an outside-the-box solution.
Axford, 30, was non-tendered by the Cardinals last week. He pitched to a 4.02 ERA (98 ERA+) for St. Louis and the Brewers this past season. Axford led the NL in saves in 2011 (46) but lost his ninth inning job over the last two years because he's become more hittable and his control has been an issue.
The 35-year-old Balfour saved 38 games with a 2.59 ERA (145 ERA+) for Oakland in 2013. He has only a season and a half worth of closing experience.
Our Latest Stories
The right-hander was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November of last year
MLB is set to alter the way intentional walks are issued, and that's too bad
And here's a look at him in a Globetrotters uniform
It looks like something from the 1800s, if not 1700s
We often hear about good and bad framers, so let's spell it out
It happened the day MLB said it'll make intentional walks automatic