Earlier this year, we saw a classic change-of-scenery deal between the Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates. In that trade, two former closers in Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli changed hands. Both had seen past dominance, but were struggling this year, and thus the clubs thought a change of scenery would do them some good. Could the Tampa Bay Rays look to do the same with Grant Balfour?
Balfour was signed by the Rays to a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason expecting to seamlessly replace Fernando Rodney as the Rays closer. From 2010-2013, the highest ERA that Balfour had posted was 2.59, and he had also notched 64 saves over that time. But the signing has not worked out so far. In 39 appearances this year, Balfour has allowed a 5.40 ERA, an 8.8 K/9, and a 7.1 BB/9. His average fastball velocity has hovered under 93 MPH for the for the first time in his career. This signing can’t have gone much worse for the Rays, and thus they could try to flip Balfour in return for another player that has seen similar struggles.
One example of a deal that could work would be trading Balfour to the Boston Red Sox for Edward Mujica. Of course, dealing within the division can always be an issue, but we aren’t talking about dealing a superstar like David Price or Ben Zobrist in this case. Mujica signed a similar two-year deal with the Red Sox last offseason worth $9.5 million. Like Balfour, he had experienced plenty of success in the past and was coming off a successful season in which he put up a 2.78 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals. But in 36 games this season, he has posted a 5.35 ERA and like Balfour has turned from late-innings option to the guy you don’t want in the game unless it is already out of hand.
As far as control, both will be under contract through 2015. Mujica will be cheaper, making $4.75 million against Balfour’s $7 million. However given that Balfour has a stronger track record than Mujica, the disparity in salary seems fair.
With the Red Sox and Rays both unable to fix Mujica’s and Balfour’s problems so far, a different perspective may be what is needed to get the players going. This certainly isn’t the only deal the Rays would be limited to, but one of this kind would make plenty of sense. Grant Balfour’s second stint in a Rays uniform hasn’t gone as expected, and as the trade deadline approaches, a change-of-scenery deal makes plenty of sense.