The 36-year-old relief pitcher is coming off of his first All-Star appearance and recorded a career-best 38 saves in 2013.
Balfour would likely provide a closing alternative to Rafael Soriano, who recorded 43 saves for the Nats in 2013 and is entering the final year of his contract. Soriano, whose 43 saves ranked in the top five among MLB pitchers, also blew a relatively high six save opportunities.
Further, with arbitration eligibility looming in the next couple of seasons for such players as Bryce Harper and Craig Stammen, along with back-loaded contracts for Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, Washington will likely go to great lengths to ensure that Soriano does not appear for more than 53.0 innings in 2014—so as to avoid the vesting of his $14 million option for 2015.
With the addition of Balfour, Clippard will likely remain in his role as the eighth inning setup guy, and Drew Storen will become expendable.
Storen, at 26 years old, never quite recovered from the 2012 blown save in Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Stanford product posted career worsts in 2013 for both ERA and WHIP with 4.52 and 1.362 respectively.
Balfour may be relatively old, but a bullpen can never have enough quality arms. The Sydney native also represents an interesting trend that's seemed to be developing since the acquisition of Doug Fister in early December.
The 2012 Nationals team that made history by generating the franchise's first-ever playoff berth was full of talented young players and veterans that, for the most part, didn't have much playoff experience.
Fister started and put up meaningful numbers in appearances in both the 2012 and 2013 ALCS for the Detroit Tigers.
Balfour has appeared in the playoffs in seven different seasons with three different teams, along with one ALCS and one World Series. Further, he has the edge that only comes from being an experienced veteran—as displayed by his war of words with Victor Martinez in the 2013 ALDS.
Though Storen may have better upside at this point in time, being that he's 10 years younger, he doesn't have the experience that comes from playing for a decade or more.
Balfour, despite carrying the tread that comes from a long career, can get the job done. He won't have to stay long, but his experience and leadership may be just what the Nats have been missing.
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