Orioles sign Grant Balfour to 2-year, $15 million contract

USA TODAY Sports

The O's have come full circle on the closer circuit, signing the A's former ninth-inning guy after sending their own to the Oakland in November.

The Baltimore Orioles have found their new closer, signing free-agent reliever Grant Balfour to a two-year, $15 million contract, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN.

The right-hander reportedly had a bigger offer on the table from another club, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, but turned it down because he "likes the Orioles' situation best."

The deal includes $500,000 in deferred money for each of the two years, meaning that Balfour will be paid $14 million in 2014-2015, then get the final million in at some point in the future. Contracts designed this way -- like Bobby Bonilla's epic pact with the Mets -- are usually orchestrated to give the teams a tax break in the present.

By average annual value, Balfour's contract stands to be one of the bigger ones handed to a reliever this winter. However, it is considerably less than the $10 million per year that Joe Nathan and Brian Wilson received from their respective clubs, and seems to be right in line with the offer that Joaquin Benoit is fielding from at least two clubs.

No matter what or when Balfour is paid, his signing marks a big discount from the money the O's would have had to pay Jim Johnson in arbitration. Johnson, who, coincidentally, will be closing for the Athletics next season, is set to earn upwards of $10 million in his third and final run through the arbitration process. Balfour's $15 million pact not only saves the Orioles a few million next season, but also gives them a Proven Closer™ for 2015.

Balfour, 35, established himself as a dominant late-inning reliever in his three seasons with Oakland. He got a small taste of the closer role in his first season with the club, then took over full time in 2012 and never looked back. The ragin' Aussie posted a 2.56 ERA and 9.4 K/9 in 140 appearances as Oakland's ninth-inning man, racking up 62 saves in 67 chances.

The additions of Balfour and fellow reliever Ryan Webb -- and the departure of Johnson -- are the only transactions of note that the Orioles have made so far this winter. The club still has holes to fill in the rotation and left field this offseason, so perhaps Balfour's deal portends bigger things to come for Dan Duquette and company.

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