With Mariano Rivera retiring and the closers job expected to go to the untested David Robertson, the New York Yankees would like to bring in some bullpen help, preferably someone with closing experience. Right now, there are reports floating around that the Yankees have already reached out to Oakland Athletics free agent closer Grant Balfour.
Balfour will turn 36 in December but does come with the proven closer label after saving 62 games the past two years for the A’s. He has also posted a sub-3.00 ERA every year since 2010. Last season, Balfour posted a 2.59 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to pair with a 10.3 K/9 ratio. In 2011, he posted a 2.53 ERA and 0.92 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 ratio.
The six-foot-two Australian brings a lot of positives to the table. He is a power right-hander who pounds the zone with a mid-90’s four-seam fastball that has some downward movement. Because he is able to keep his fastball down he is able to get a lot of groundballs and rarely gives up a home run with a 0.8 HR/9 rate and he surrendered seven homers in 62.2 innings, a rate of one every nine innings which is more than manageable for a reliever. His other pitches are a slider which he can use as a swing and a miss pitch and a curveball that he uses to keep hitters off balance.
There is no replacing Rivera but Balfour has pitched in the AL East before with the Tampa Bay Rays and is an intense competitor. Rivera was quietly intense while Balfour is the kind of guy who screams into his glove and lets his emotions out on the mound, a la Joba Chamberlain in 2007.
The Yankees need some insurance. Robertson is, without a doubt, one of the best reliever to ever put on the uniform. However, relievers are very hit or miss and they can go from great one year to poor the next and then back to great. Any Yankees fan who remember Steve Howe can tell you how fickle relievers can be. Balfour would be excellent insurance in case Robertson fails or gets hurt. The one issue with Balfour is, of course, his age. He might be asking for a multi-year deal but the Yankees should be able to afford to give him one.
Signing Balfour won’t be easy. He will probably look for a team that will plug him right into the closer role but there are a few closers on the market and few teams willing to overpay for the overrated stat of saves. The Yankees might be one of those teams willing to overpay for that stat because aside from Shawn Kelley and, if brought back, Boone Logan, the Yankees bullpen could be very young with Dellin Betances and Preston Claiborne figuring to have prominent roles. Adding Balfour would bring a veteran presence to the group and someone who can be plugged into the closers role if needed.