The news of Joaquin Benoit leaving the Rays was not surprising, but the results of it could have a secondary impact for the Rays related to Grant Balfour. MLB Trade Rumors posted today that ACES, Inc. has had a very good off-season for their clients as they’ve worked out player-friendly deals for clients John Buck, Brandon Ingue, Jhnonny Peralta, and now Joaquin Benoit so far. Three of those four players are now all on the same team which may or may not mean anything but another player that is on the ACES, Inc client list is……Grant Balfour.
Balfour made $2.1m in 2010 and is now heading into arbitration. If the Rays do not work out a deal for Balfour by November 23rd, they will offer him arbitration and hope that some other club is scared away from giving him a deal and giving up their top draft pick to the Rays. The Rays would likely submit an arbitration figure somewhere around $3.0-$3.3m for Balfour and ACES, Inc. would likely come in higher after what they were just able to pull off for Benoit as a middle reliever. It would then be up to the arbitrator to decide which camp makes the better case and then make a binding decision that both parties must honor.
The reliever market is quite deep for this off-season so it is unlikely a club is going to give up their top draft pick to sign Balfour. Juan Cruz is a prime example of this who had very similar numbers to Balfour back from 2006-2008 and only the inept Kansas City Royals were finally willing to relent in late February after the market had dried up and gave Cruz a two-year deal for $6.0m. The Rays hold the leverage in the situation as they have a very strong record in going to arbitration but they also have a strong record in giving players very fair deals to avoid arbitration. The club let Benoit go as Detroit was willing to pay max, or even over-max value, for Benoit.
The market for relievers is still quite deep and there are some bargains to be found but I am not certain the Rays are comfortable with the amount of potential bullpen turnover that I discussed yesterday. Benoit is off to the Tigers, but the Rays have more control of the situation with Grant Balfour and I have a strong feeling they will use that to their advantage to bring back the popular and effective Aussie.