By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
12:37 PM EST, December 10, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.
The Orioles continue their search for a new closer to replace Jim Johnson, but manager Buck Showalter said the club has yet to focus on a certain player.
Earlier in the day, several media reports said that the Orioles were close to signing former Oakland Athletics closer Grant Balfour, but multiple industry sources have said that no offer has been made to Balfour.
Showalter confirmed that Tuesday morning.
“We talk about players,” Showalter said. “We talk about everybody, the same ones you all are talking about. I will say that we are no closer on one than we are on the other. I don’t think there’s been any offers that have been made.”
Regarding Balfour, specifically, Showalter said: “No offer’s been made. It’s no further along with him than anyone else. That would be erroneous.”
Several free-agent closers are in play for the Orioles, including Balfour, former St. Louis Cardinals reliever John Axford, ex-Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez, former Detroit Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit and ex-Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
The Orioles have also met with Axford this week, an industry source said.
The Orioles dealt Johnson, who recorded back-to-back 50-save seasons, last week in a move that executive vice president Dan Duquette termed a “reallocation of resources.” Johnson was projected to make around $10 million in his final year of eligibility.
But Balfour -- who has 62 saves the past two years in Oakland, including 38 last season -- would likely command not only an annual salary of $8 million to $10 million, but also a multi-year commitment.
If the Orioles are interested in not spending about 10 percent of their projected payroll on a closer, more cost-effective options like Axford and Perez would likely be in play.
The Orioles could also pass on all of them and move right-hander Tommy Hunter to closer -- or at least test him in the role initially -- and sign a player returning from injury who might not be ready for Opening Day, like Joel Hanrahan (Tommy John surgery) or Andrew Bailey (torn labrum). But interest from teams on those two players seems to be increasing as well.
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