Grant Balfour hails from Sydney, Australia. He came up with the Minnesota Twins in 2001 and battled injuries and control issues before re-establishing himself with the Tampa Bay Rays, highlighted by a dominant 2008 campaign that saw him record a 1.54 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and average 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 51 games out of the pen. He didn’t get a shot to close games full-time until 2012 with the Oakland A’s, and he took the job and ran with it, posting a 2.56 ERA with 62 saves over the past two seasons.
Balfour knows how to strike people out. He has averaged more than a whiff per inning in his career and 10.3 per nine innings in 2013. While nowhere near as wild as he was early in his career (7.3 walks per nine innings in 2007), his 3.9 walk rate is still a bit higher than you’d like to see.
Balfour, 35, relies largely on his low-to-mid-90s heat and spitfire attitude, the latter most recently resulting in a bench-clearing altercation with Victor Martinez in this year's ALDS, when Balfour flipped out at Martinez for making eye contact with him after fouling off a pitch.
Balfour earned $12.25 million over the past three years with Oakland, and he’s coming off two of his best seasons and his only two as a closer. Effectively pitching the ninth inning raises the price tag quite a bit, with free agent closers routinely nabbing quite a bit above what Balfour made with Oakland.
Balfour has been an effective reliever and would be a nice addition to any bullpen, but his fit with the Mets is a bit mixed. Good closers tend to land lucrative free agent deals, and with Bobby Parnell posting a lower 2013 WHIP and ERA than Balfour, the Mets don’t need a closer.
The question then becomes whether Balfour’s late-inning contributions are worth the price. While it’d be great to have someone like him to solidify the bullpen, the Mets have a number of more pressing needs, particularly at shortstop, first base, outfield, and even the starting rotation. The Mets could re-sign LaTroy Hawkins for less than what it would take to land Balfour and rely on a combination of promising young arms like Jeurys Familia and Vic Black and less expensive free agent signings.