AP Source: A’s agree to terms with RHP Balfour

The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with free agent
right-handed reliever Grant Balfour on an $8.1 million, two-year
deal.

A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the deal to
The Associated Press on Friday but spoke on condition of anonymity
because the contract will not be finalized until Balfour passes a
physical. A formal announcement could come as soon as Monday.

Balfour is set to earn $3.75 million next season and $4 million
in 2012. The deal includes a $4.5 million club option for 2013 with
a $350,000 buyout.

The A’s are boosting their already talented pitching staff a
month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training in
Phoenix.

The 33-year-old Balfour went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 57
appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, his seventh year in
the big leagues.

Balfour will provide depth to a bullpen already featuring 2009
AL Rookie of the Year closer Andrew Bailey. While his role will be
determined by manager Bob Geren come spring training, Balfour could
fit into several different bullpen slots.

Right-hander Rich Harden is back with the A’s, his original
team, for 2011 likely as a reliever. The fifth starter job will be
open to competition this spring. Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden,
Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez are penciled in for the
rotation.

It’s been quite the busy winter for Oakland general manager
Billy Beane, who has made several significant upgrades to his
roster in hopes of contending in the AL West in 2011. They were
runner-up in the division to the AL champion Texas Rangers last
season.

Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui received a $4.25 million,
one-year contract last month to give the A’s a power bat in the
middle of the order.

Oakland acquired outfielder David DeJesus in a trade with the
Kansas City Royals in November, then picked up another corner
outfielder in Josh Willingham in a swap with the Washington
Nationals in mid-December.

Willingham is another middle-of-the-order hitter who should
complement Matsui and DeJesus.

The A’s stayed in the AL West chase until late in the season,
finishing 81-81 for second place in the division. That was despite
using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record
set in 2008.

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this
report.