Jan 23 2014, 11:39pm CST | by Poch de la Rosa
Balfour returns to the Rays, whom he played for as a setup man from 2007-10. Bill Chastain of the Rays' official website confirmed the acquisition of the highly-sought, free-agent closer in his Jan. 23 article.
"Grant Balfour is returning to the Rays.
"Balfour, 36, served as a setup man for the Rays during his previous tenure, but he will be slotted as the club's closer this time around. Earlier this offseason, Tampa Bay traded for veteran closer Heath Bell and signed Juan Carlos Ovideo (formerly known as Leo Nunez), who also is an experienced closer. Fernando Rodney closed for the team the past two seasons."
"There are other teams out there that wanted my services. Like I've said, it wasn't all about the money. I did have other offers that were higher offers. But to be here in Tampa, to play with (Rays manager Joe Maddon) and have the familiarity, and I love the area. And I love playing for the Rays. My family is here, and I love staying at home.
"I want to win a World Series. We got really close here in 2008. And I'm really hoping that here, in the next few years, that I can win one."
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports the New York Mets were one of those teams which were interested in Balfour, and were dangling a deal similar to that of the Rays, citing an ESPN New York source.
However, he ultimately chose Tampa Bay because he resides in the area.
The Washington Nationals were another interested suitor, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
On the other hand, Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times writes Balfour landed once again with the Rays after a two-year, $15 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles which he agreed to didn't come to fruition after they had lingering concerns about his shoulder.
The right-handed Aussie closer "was upset," per Topkin, and his agents eventually had Rays orthopedist Koco Eaton confirm publicly that he was in tip-top shape.
Balfour, who passed a physical with Tampa Bay this week, says so himself. He told Topkin,"I'm totally healthy, 100 percent healthy, and you'll see that when I take the field. I'm looking forward to it."
With a healthy Balfour in tow, Rays manager proclaimed him as the team's new closer in an interview with Adam Berry of the Rays' official website on Thursday at the Tampa Museum of Art.
"We're actually going to use the C-word this year, which is very unique for me and for us. It's a radical departure. But he has earned this particular situation, this moment, this role. We're going to have a really deep bullpen. I'm looking at the names, it's really exciting."
Among those names include Balfour, Bell, Ovideo, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos, Berry notes.
"My expectation is that David Price will be here. None of this was done with the belief that David would or would not be here. This was done to take a baseball team that has the opportunity to be special this year and give it the best chance to be special.
Balfour, a 10-year veteran who has also seen action for the Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Rays and Oakland Athletics, has amassed a 28-17 record with 514 strikeouts and a 3.27 ERA, according to ESPN stats.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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