The Rays announced the terms of the deal:
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports initially provided word that a deal was reached.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports Balfour says he had more money available elsewhere:
Balfour said there was more money elsewhere but he wanted to be back with #Rays and Maddon— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) January 23, 2014
A longtime middle reliever, Balfour moved into the closing role for the Oakland Athletics during the 2012 campaign and excelled. He racked up 62 saves over the past two seasons with an ERA below 2.60 each year.
Back in December it appeared he was heading to Baltimore to assume the closer role. Instead, the Orioles decided against completing the free-agent signing after viewing the results of his physical, although they didn't state a specific problem.
Adam Berry of MLB.com sheds light on how the Rays plan to utilize Balfour:
Maddon confirms Balfour will be the #Rays closer, a title he rarely grants. "We're actually going to use the C-word this year."— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) January 23, 2014
Balfour told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wasn't dealing with any physical issues this offseason:
Balfour spoke with Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times about his physical and the issue with the Orioles:
Balfour said he took a physical and "passed with flying colors." Said issue with #Orioles is in the past. "I'm 100 percent healthy"— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) January 23, 2014
Do you think it's a good move for the Rays?
Balfour is now slated to join what's shaping up to become a formidable Rays bullpen. He'll likely handle the closing duties with Joel Peralta, Heath Bell and Jake McGee, among the other options manager Joe Maddon will have in the late innings.
The 36-year-old Australia native pitched for the Rays from 2007 until 2010. He only recorded eight saves during that stretch, but did put together several solid seasons, including 51 appearances with a 1.54 ERA in 2008.
Balfour isn't a prototypical closer with overpowering stuff and a sky-high strikeout rate. That said, he has proven capable of getting hitters out consistently late in games and should bring some stability to the back end of Tampa's 'pen in 2014.
While the Baltimore chaos means Balfour will have to wait until the ink is dry on the dotted line before considering the deal official, it appears he's finally found a new home.