Rumors are breaking that the Nationals are showing heavy interest in free agent relief pitcher Grant Balfour. Balfour was originally expected to sign with the Baltimore Orioles, but the Orioles backed out of the agreed upon 2-yr/$15 million contract they had negotiated with Balfour. Pending a successful physical by Balfour those would be the terms of the contract. Doctors gave mixed reviews and while Balfour contends that two doctors found him healthy, Orioles GM Dan Duquette thought otherwise leaving Balfour on the table for another team to swoop right in.
The 36-year old Australian pitched an impressive campaign for the Oakland Athletics last year, posting a 2.59 ERA to go with 38 saves — good for sixth in the MLB last season. The Nationals don’t necessarily need a boost in the bullpen where they are young and have much potential, but Balfour would be a steady improvement with a high motor and a fiery reputation. The Nationals certainly don’t lack personality and Balfour would be a great fit. It can’t hurt that the team that rebuffed Balfour sits 45 minutes up the road in Baltimore.
The only question left to answer before this were to occur would be how does this affect Rafael Soriano? Other relievers with closing experience include Storen and Clippard, but they will likely see regular visits to the mound as set up men for the closer. Will that be Soriano or is Balfour the answer? Soriano threw for a 3.11 ERA and amassed 43 saves. Soriano is also 34 and has one year remaining on his contract. He is now four years removed from the season he finished 8th in Cy Young voting, 12th in MVP voting and a trip to the All-Star game. But four years is a long time in baseball, the Nationals next move should indicate how the feel about Soriano going forward.