On Dec. 17, the two sides agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal, via USA Today. However, Roch Kubatko of MASN first reported that there could be a problem with the physical:
#orioles deal with Grant Balfour in serious jeopardy due to issues with physical that a source said "need to be resolved."— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 20, 2013
After it was revealed that a shoulder injury would hold up the deal, Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun noted that the club had to decide whether it would still be willing to sign the pitcher:
#Orioles meeting this morning to discuss next move w/ Balfour. If they're still interested in signing him, process will likely take a while.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) December 20, 2013
Encina then quoted executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who explained that the deal is off:
Duquette said O's deal w/ Balfour "will not come together." Said team will "Never close the door, but we're going 2 turn attn elsehwere."— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) December 20, 2013
Despite reports of a shoulder issue, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that the issue doesn't appear to be Balfour's health:
Rays team physician Koco Eaton, who has a lengthy history with Balfour, doesn’t know why.
Eaton examined Balfour in Tampa on Friday and also performed a contrast MRI on the pitcher’s right shoulder — the area that troubled the Orioles, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Asked if he was surprised that the Orioles declined to complete their deal with Balfour, Eaton said “Yes,” adding that approving the contract was “kind of a no-brainer.”
The 35-year-old reliever had bounced around the league since 2001, but he truly excelled once he landed with the Oakland Athletics. In three years, he put together a 9-7 record with an impressive 2.53 ERA.
Additionally, he became the club's closer midway through the 2012 season and kept that role in 2013 when he was selected to his first All-Star game. The Australian finished with 38 saves while helping the Athletics win the AL West division.
However, the latest injury issues leave his career in doubt.
As for the Orioles, Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun reports that they would be interested in signing former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney:
Acdg to industry source, #Orioles seem to b turning their attention to Fernando Rodney w the Balfour decision in limbo and likely collapsing— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 20, 2013
Kubatko outlines the remaining options for Baltimore:
If this is the case, Perez and Rodney remain on market. O's have checked medical records on Hanrahan and Bailey. But no Axford or Benoit— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 20, 2013
All of these players could fill the closer role left by Jim Johnson, who was traded to Oakland earlier in the offseason.
No matter what direction the team decides to go in, it is clear that this will be a second choice after a failed attempt at signing Balfour.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.