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Rizzo doesn’t rule out Balfour signing

Jan 21, 2014, 12:13 PM EST

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Mike Rizzo hasn’t been afraid in the past to make a surprise January signing, even at positions that already appear to be filled — ie. Edwin Jackson in 2012 and Rafael Soriano in 2013 — so it perhaps wasn’t all that surprising over the weekend when a report by suggested the Nationals have some interest in reliever Grant Balfour.

The Nationals, of course, already have the highest-paid closer in baseball in Soriano. They also have two high-priced setup men with closing experience in Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

So, why would they have any interest right now in adding yet another high-priced, late-inning reliever like Balfour? Rizzo was asked about that this morning in an interview on MLB Network…

At this time of year, we’re looking at any way to improve our ballclub. And sometimes you get some values at this time of year. We’re looking at any way to either strengthen a weakness that we have, or … we feel our bullpen is extremely strong, and it’s a big part of our ballclub. But if you can strengthen a strength, that never hurts either. You can never have too many good players. And especially in January, you can never have too many good arms, too many starters, too many relievers. We’re looking at every avenue, and we leave no stone unturned. If you can find a value and improve your ballclub, strengthen a strength, we’re all for it.”

That wasn’t exactly a confirmation by Rizzo of the Nationals’ interest in Balfour, but it also fell well short of a denial. So, let’s read between the lines a bit to try to decipher what’s going on here.

Balfour likely wasn’t on the Nationals’ radar when the offseason began. They weren’t going to shell out $15 million over two years to a 36-year-old with aspirations of closing for a big-league club. That’s what the Orioles offered Balfour last month, and that’s the offer he accepted … until Baltimore nixed the deal after his physical reportedly revealed concerns about either his shoulder, wrist or knee.

In the time that has passed since then, Balfour hasn’t come close to signing anywhere else. In other words, his price has dropped, probably by a significant amount.

Now Rizzo looks at the market and sees a quality reliever who perhaps could be had for far less than his original asking price. That doesn’t mean the Nationals are all-in on Balfour, and it doesn’t mean his preference is to sign with a Washington club that wouldn’t offer him a full-time closer’s job.

But, as we’ve seen before, Rizzo loves to swoop in and acquire players whose price has dropped. Balfour’s price certainly has dropped, so it shouldn’t come as a shock the Nationals would suddenly have some interest.

  1. veejh - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    A bit of a reach here. Stick with Storen, he had great numbers once he came back from his AAA stint last season.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Damaged goods, maybe for a 36 year old? Didn’t Rizzo learn anything after the likes of Dan Haren, Chin Ming Wang, and Brad Lidge? Beware! Billy Beane didn’t try too hard to keep him. Why not? This move doesn’t excite me.

    • David Proctor - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:50 PM

      You’re overreacting. It’s nothing like those guys. Haren, for instance, spent time on the DL in 2012 and pitched t a career-worst 4.33 ERA. There were red flags galore. Balfour hasn’t spent time on the DL since 2006 and has pitched to an ERA of under 2.60 each of the last 4 years. Multiple doctors have come out and publicly said that Balfour is healthy–and given that the Orioles and Angelos have a history of making injuries up to get out of a contract, I’m skeptical. Here’s a quote from Frank Wren on Angelos:

      “That’s how Peter plays general manager,” said Frank Wren, who was the Orioles’ general manager in 1999 and was fired after the season. “He uses medical reasons to kill or change a deal if he doesn’t like it.”

      • nats128 - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:34 PM

        Maybe Balfour had asbestos in his shoulder that the ambulance chaser didn’t like!

      • Joe Seamhead - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        36 years old. tick-tock,tick-tock, tick-tock.

      • David Proctor - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:47 PM

        Sure, I wouldn’t endorse giving him a 3 year deal or something. But in 2014, he’s a pretty sure bet to be very good.

  3. Doc - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Me too, Joe Seams!

    Ball Four would more than likely stog up the farm system, and cost a few significant bucks along the way.

    A lot of these guys look good in January, not so much in July!

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Putting Grant Balfour aside for a moment, to me it seems pretty obvious that the Nats (read Mike Rizzo) do not see Drew Storen as their closer of the future. Regardless of what you or I think of Mr. Storen’s abilities or potential, what matters is what Mr. Rizzo thinks of him (and how potential trading partners view him, of course). Whether the Nats move him now or later, I’m convinced they will move him before the start of the 2015 season. If you accept that, then acquiring Mr. Balfour now and maybe making a Storen/Moore trade now could well make long-term sense. We’ll see.

    • scnatsfan - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      You put Storen and Moore together, and possibly Espi, and you could get something (or things) very solid in return. The question is… what is it that we need? The lineup seems set and, if loading for a big 2014, it would seem odd to trade MLB players for prospects at this time.

      I do believe that if we sign Balfour then Rizzo already has a deal pending for some of the excess.

      • NatsLady - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        prospects, especially infielders. System is woefully thin there.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:53 PM


  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Assuming Rizzo really is genuinely interested on any serious level, it would have to be at a discount, and probably not guaranteed money at that. So in January, it’s basically no risk to offer him a try-see. If he does come relatively cheap, and he is still good, as he said, there’s always room for a good pitcher, and it allows them some latitude to swoop in on some other opportunities that might include a trade. And if he flames out, they patterson him, and wish him every success on his future endeavors.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    maybe he is trying to undo what Orioles did to Balfour’s value or maybe he is trying to undo soriano being highest paid closer. those are the only two reasons that make sense.

  7. Sonny G 10 - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Wow! Hardball Talk, according to Bleachers Report, is saying the Nats would like to trade Storen. That really bums me out. It won’t be the first time or the last time I am disappointed in a Rizzo decision if true. I still trust Rizzo to keep us winners.

    • Hiram Hover - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      This appears to just be a recycling of the Ken Rosenthal report that got this whole thing started.

      Doesn’t mean it’s untrue, but it’s not actually any new news.

    • NatsLady - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Rizzo has been trying (or sending out rumors that he’s trying) to trade Storen for years, way back to the Span/Storen trade that didn’t fly in 2011. Can’t say why, but, there it is.

  8. nats128 - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    I like it. It’s only cash and the Nats gain a player and possibly have players then in surplus to trade

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      I don’t see it as only cash. It’s a roster spot, too. I hope if the deal is done that it’s only cash for one year.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        Good point. The 40-man is at 40, so a signing would require an immediate roster move of one sort or another.

      • Jw - Jan 21, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        DFA Mattheus. It’s gonna happen sooner or later anyway.

  9. dgourds - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:16 AM

    The question is “Do you really trust Soriano and Storen in big games?” I don’t. I like the move. The more good arms we have at the back end of the bullpen, the better.

  10. jpbnats - Jan 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Hi, I’m a long time reader but just registered to the site. I’ve often wondered if Rizzo was planning to address the closer situation. Sure Soriano saved a lot of games last year but I think the many nail biting, high pitch count saves are a concern, especially for this team that has high hopes in 2014. I still have a hard time getting the 8/15 Giants game out of my head, when Hector Sanchez hit a 3-2 home run after coming in to the game with zero home runs for the year, and I think he was batting under .200 at the time. That was the day after Span bailed out Soriano with a diving catch with two guys on in the 9th. I know those are only two of many games that he pitched but I think they are good examples of what the team may be faced with if they rely strictly on Soriano as their closer. Maybe Matt Williams will be a little more open minded than DJ when it comes to the bullpen and not pencil in certain guys for whole innings.






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