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Grant Balfour Signs For $2.05M and Avoids Arbitration

Per Marc Topkin's Twitter.

Sometimes it feels like Grant Balfour is the most polarizing figure in the bullpen. I know, I know. Dan Wheeler is present, but most of that angst stems from Wheeler's pay relative to the team's payroll, not because he's an entirely useless pitcher - he gets righties out quite well, actually. Balfour has the tendency to either walk or strike the guy out. Simple enough, right? But last season he also ran into some poor luck in stranding runners, which lead to a bloated ERA.

Balfour has some things going for him that should endear him to most. First and foremost being that he lights up radar guns. The Rays bullpen held one of the lowest average fastball velocities last season. So even with a decreased amount of heat, Balfour was the only cat playing with gasoline instead of flint. He also brings respectable strikeout rates with those flames. Look at Mike MacDougal's career K/9 and tell me he throws hard. It just doesn't fit. Balfour doesn't have that problem, but he does walk guys, which any generic announcer worth his weight in candy grams will tell you is a cardinal sin out of the bullpen.

True in some cases, but the strikeouts make Balfour's infidelity to the zone worthwhile. J.P. Howell, whom everyone should love dearly, actually walked more on a per nine basis than Balfour, yet he avoids the scorn - and rightfully so - unlike his Australian pen mate. Balfour still missed more than his share of bats, but a 79.1% contact rate was the highest of his career. At this point, the hope is for a bounce back to his older ways, if not, he's still a decent reliever - a 3.77 FIP this year is almost identical to his career totals - however the best reliever in a good bullpen he is not.

As for the money, don't worry about it. $2M is more than a 50% reduction on what he was worth last season in free agent dollars. As someone in their final year of arbitration, he should be making closer to 80% of his worth.