TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t resist adding Grant Balfour to solidify the back end of their bullpen, giving the closer a $12 million, two-year contract Thursday about a month after his $15 million agreement with Baltimore fell through.
The Orioles said they had concerns with his physical. Balfour proclaimed he’s healthy and looking forward to helping Tampa Bay get back to the playoffs.
”I’m 100 percent healthy,” Balfour said, adding he had more lucrative offers from other teams but was eager to play for a perennial contender and return to the Tampa Bay area, where he still resides after spending time with the Rays from 2007-10.
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”I’ve had an eventful offseason to say the least,” he said. ”It’s always been a place on my radar. I’ll be honest, I never wanted to leave here.”
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg made the announcement at a news conference held following a team sponsorship event at the Tampa Museum of Art.
He called it a significant move for the budget-minded Rays, who have made the playoffs four times in the past six seasons despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
Sternberg noted the team did not enter the offseason expecting to be in a position to pursue the 36-year-old, who was 62 for 67 in save opportunities the past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics.
”We’ve have had some exceptional teams,” Sternberg said, explaining the decision to spend above the team’s projected payroll. ”We want to give this organization the best chance to win, and we know it’s going to cost us more than we can afford to pay.”
In his first stint with the Rays, Balfour was part of an improbable run to the 2008 World Series, where Tampa Bay lost to Philadelphia in six games.
Sternberg called him a ”known quantity” for the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon added the signing will make an already impressive bullpen even more formidable.
”He wants to go back to the World Series,” Maddon said. ”So do we, so do I.”
Balfour was a first-time All-Star in 2013, when he had a 1.63 ERA while going 25 for 25 in save opportunities the first half of the season.
The right-hander’s 383 appearances, 380 1-3 innings and 410 strikeouts over the past six years are the second-most among AL relievers. He’s first Australian-born pitcher to make an All-Star team and has been a part of five teams that made the playoffs, including two with Tampa Bay.
”I want to win a World Series,” he said. ”We got really close here in 2008, and I’m really hoping here in the next two years, or whatever it is I get to play here, that I can win one it would be awesome.”