MADISON, January 23, 2014 — The Tampa Bay Rays called a press conference to announce they had signed relief pitcher, and their likely closer, Grant Balfour to a two-year $12 million deal. The Milwaukee Brewers also announced today that they agreed to a contract with free agent starter Matt Garza.
This Balfour deal comes about a month after the Orioles voided an agreement with Balfour due to health concerns.
Grant Balfour spent the last three years in Oakland after having three and a half mostly successful years in Tampa Bay. He was Oakland’s full-time closer in 2013 after getting the job in mid-2012. Balfour converted 38 of his 41 save opportunities last year, while posting a 2.59 ERA and striking out 27.5% of the batters he faced and walking 10.3%. Balfour’s walk totals are not ideal as they are close to league average but he has experienced success with similar walk totals previously.
The Balfour signing all but guarantees that last year’s closer Fernando Rodney will not return to the team. Now that the Yankees have blown past the luxury tax threshold it is possible New York looks to add Rodney to solidify the back end of their bullpen after Mariano Rivera’s retirement.
The Rays thunder was largely stolen by the Milwaukee Brewers, though, as the Brewers have come to a four-year $52 million contract agreement with starting pitcher Matt Garza. Due to Garza being traded midseason last year the Rangers were unable to make a qualifying offer meaning that signing Garza does not force the Brewers to surrender a draft pick as they would have done by signing Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, who are considered the other two top starters in free agency.
Garza spent last year with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers as he was one of the bigger names moved at the trade deadline in 2013. Garza was slightly better than league average with combined totals of a 3.82 ERA, a 106 ERA+, over 155.1 innings pitched, while striking out 20.6% of the batters he faced and walking 6.1%. These numbers are not far from Garza’s career numbers as he has a career ERA of 3.84, a 108 ERA+, while striking out 20.0% of the batters he’s faced and walking 7.9%
This will likely be the biggest name signing by the Brewers this year, but it solidifies their rotation and could allow them to compete for a Wild Card if things break right for them. The rotation will now include Garza, Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. While there are no starters that would be viewed as aces it is a solid collection of arms.
If the Brewers can get back a healthy Aramis Ramirez, and Ryan Braun can return to 2012 form, combined with last year’s breakout players, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, their offense could really click.