Orioles' Top 5 Closer Backup Plans If Grant Balfour Deal Falls Through
The Baltimore Orioles might still be in the market for a closer after all.
The Orioles agreed to a two-year deal with Grant Balfour on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
However, according to this tweet by Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, the deal is "in serious jeopardy due to issues with [Balfour's] physical that a source said 'need to be resolved.'"
If those issues don't get resolved, the Orioles will be once again looking for a closer after trading Jim Johnson to Balfour's old team, the Oakland Athletics.
Already off the market are Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson and Joaquin Benoit. So, who do the Orioles look towards if the issues don't get worked out?
Here's a look at five closers, or setup guys who could be closers, that the Orioles need as backup plans if things don't get sorted out.
5. Jesse Crain
Jesse Crain is coming off a year where he spent time on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain.
However, when healthy, Crain has been one of the best setup men in baseball over the last few years.
Prior to being injured last year, Crain had 19 holds and an 0.74 ERA. The year before was a bit of a down year in terms of holds (10), but let's let history speak for itself:
He's proven he's been able to get the job done and he's only 32.
The Orioles could sign him to an incentive-laden deal that has a mutual option for a second and third year.
Crain has never had the opportunity to be a closer, but he's shown he has closer stuff. According to Brooksbaseball.net, Crain has a pitch repertoire that includes a 95-mph four-seam fastball, an 85-mph slider, a 73-mph curve and an 84-mph curve.
If that's not a good arsenal for a closer, then I don't know what is.
4. Joel Hanrahan
Joel Hanrahan may be recovering from Tommy John surgery, and may not be available right away, but he could be worth the gamble for the Orioles.
Hanrahan has shown he can be one of the best closers in baseball. If you need proof, just look at his 2011-12 seasons in which he had ERAs of 1.83 and 2.72, respectively, and combined for 76 saves.
And, let's not forget that the Orioles have already given consideration to rehabbing pitchers, according to this tweet by Roch Kubatko.
It would be a risky move for Baltimore, but the potential rewards far outweigh the risks.
3. Andrew Bailey
Andrew Bailey is another pitcher coming off injury, but he is another one worth taking a risk on.
Bailey had a torn capsule and damaged labrum in his throwing shoulder, and isn't expected back until mid-May, according to Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
Although he's had his struggles with injuries the last two years, there's no denying that when he's healthy, Bailey could be one of the better closers in the game. Here's how his stats looked while in Oakland from 2009-11:
It's safe to say he was overworked in 2009, but the numbers were better in almost every category in less innings a year later.
There is a risk with Bailey, like with the previous two. But if he can regain his form and get healthy, he could be a good closer for the Orioles.
2. Francisco Rodriguez
Francisco Rodriguez was traded from the Brewers to the Orioles last year and finished the year pitching decently.
In 23 appearances for Baltimore, K-Rod had a 4.50 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. Prior to that, he had a 1.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with the Brewers in 25 appearances.
The minor struggles could be attributed to the mid-season trade, and shouldn't make the Orioles balk at re-signing him to be their closer.
From 2005-11, Rodriguez totaled 277 saves. He was once one of the best closers in the game and showed more flashes of that brilliance last year.
The biggest issues facing K-Rod, however, aren't on the field. They will be off the field. His ex-girlfriend alleges a history of abuse, according to the New York Daily News, and who can forget his assault on his girlfriend's father after a game while with the Mets?
If any team is going to invest any kind of money in Rodriguez, he's going to have to prove the off-the-field stuff is behind him.
1. Fernando Rodney
Fernando Rodney may be the best closer left on the market should the Grant Balfour deal fall through.
Rodney has been a great closer over the last few years, although 2013 would be considered a disappointment compared to 2012.
Last year, Rodney had 37 saves, a 3.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, which is not bad by most accounts. But when those numbers follow a year in which he had 48 saves, a 0.60 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP, it's easy to see why some aren't as high on him.
But when you look at Rodney's pitch repertoire, according to Brooksbaseball.net, you see how deadly he can be. His four-seam fastball reaches 98 mph, while his sinker is at 97 mph. Throw in an 85-mph changeup and you have a great trio of pitches.
He has electric stuff and would be a perfect fit for the Orioles. They would still get a top-notch closer, which is ultimately what they are looking for anyways.
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