Relief pitcher Grant Balfour signed a two-year, $12 million contract to join the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. But in an unusual twist, Balfour reportedly turned down an offer of more money from the New York Mets so that he could sign with a team closer to his home. Being turned down by Balfour despite offering more money is a big blow to the Mets who could have been greatly helped by the addition to their bullpen.
The Mets have mostly ignored their bullpen this offseason, only adding a few pitchers who will be nothing more than ancillary members of their group. With last year’s closer, Bobby Parnell, facing uncertainty with regard to his health after missing the final two months of the 2013 season and the Mets losing LaTroy Hawkins in free agency, the addition of a veteran like Balfour would have solidified their bullpen.
Balfour would be a more than adequate fill-in for Parnell in the event that he’s not completely healthy at the start of the season or is unable to regain the form he had last season before he was forced to the disabled list. But without Balfour, the backup closer is Vic Black, who spent much of 2013 in triple-A. While he has the potential to be a closer, he’s also had control issues in the past which could prevent him from being reliable in such a high-pressure role.
Balfour would have been an almost perfect addition for the Mets who need a quality bullpen to help close for a starting rotation that should be able to keep them in games. But now that they’ve lost out on Balfour, they’ll have to hope that Parnell is healthy while depending on several unproven youngsters and a contingent of rookies to help solidify their bullpen in 2014 — which is not a great position to be in as the season approaches.