Updates from Friday, Dec. 20:
Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said that the Grant Balfour-to-Baltimore deal "will not come together," according to Eduardo Encina of The Baltimore Sun:
Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun touched on the situation in an earlier report:
With the decision on Grant Balfour in limbo, the Orioles are expected to turn their sights to former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney, according to an industry source.
The Orioles had several discussions with Rodney before Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal, but nothing progressed at that time.
Updates from Thursday, Dec. 19:
According to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko, there may be a hangup in the deal:
Later in the evening Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the press conference will be delayed:
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman confirmed the deal and added that Balfour will have to pass a physical to complete the move. He also clarified the terms of the contract, noting that Balfour will get $15 million including deferred money:
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN adds the two sides hope to finalize the contract today:
Balfour spent the last two seasons as the closer for the Oakland Athletics. He racked up 62 saves over that span with an ERA below 2.60, making him one of the game's most efficient ninth-inning pitchers.
Instead of re-signing him, Oakland made a deal with the Orioles to acquire Jim Johnson in exchange for a package including infielder Jemile Weeks.
So Johnson heads west to fill the Athletics' closer void, and now Balfour signs with the Orioles to eliminate the hole left by Johnson's exit.
After the deal with Oakland, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter was asked about how the team would replace Johnson and Nate McLouth, especially in terms of team chemistry. Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun provided his response:
You asked a great question. You can't put that sabermetrics on Johnson, Nate. ... We hope to replace them with guys that bring similar contributions other than playing the game. ... There are some other guys that might step up, having a year under their belt they hadn't before. Let's face it, chemistry comes from winning games, to start off with. You can start with good chemistry out in the spring. But if you go 0-30 in April, I bet your chemistry isn't real good. It runs hand in hand.
Showalter clearly understands replacing Johnson, who posted back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles, won't be easy on the field or in the clubhouse. That said, adding a veteran like Balfour should help limit any potential issues.
David Cameron of Fangraphs believes it's a signing with plenty of value for Baltimore:
When you factor in the Orioles also added a useful utility player like Weeks in what amounts to simply switching closers, Baltimore definitely emerges from this segment of the offseason wheeling and dealing on the positive end.
Balfour should make a seamless transition to the Orioles and ensure the ninth inning remains something Showalter doesn't have to worry about.