Balfour would give the O's another power arm in the bullpen, but he's not a dominant reliever. His 3.81 career ERA is decent, not great, and he'll also strike out plenty of batters (10.23 career K/9). He'll give up walks too -- 4.34 career BB/9 -- though he did cut down on his number of walks last season (2.77 BB/9).
Balfour's pitch of choice is his fastball, but he has started to rely more on his slider and cutter in recent seasons. It may also be worth noting that, coincidentally, Balfour's fastball velocity has dropped from 94.7 mph in 2008 to 92.6 in 2010.
Kubatko noted another important factor in potentially signing Balfour:
The one hitch with Balfour is his Type A status. He'd cost the Orioles a second-round pick. Not sure if you consider that a steep price, but it must not be deterring the front office because there's definite interest.Considering the O's just went through this very same thing last year when Andy MacPhail targeted and signed Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract, I guess Type A status relievers don't really scare the O's. Many scouts and prospect analysts have hinted that the 2011 crop of players is going to result in a deep draft, so surrendering a second-round pick just to sign an above average reliever would not make a whole lot of sense.
Maybe the O's are faking interest in Balfour to get Kevin Gregg to notice, hoping he'll want to sign first. Balfour is a better reliever than Gregg, though Gregg may end up making more money just because he racked up a lot of saves last season. I'd rather the O's didn't sign either reliever, but at least Gregg has Type B status, meaning the O's wouldn't need to relinquish their second-round pick.
Derrek Lee or Adam LaRoche? Grant Balfour or Kevin Gregg? I can't say that these are enormous choices or will improve the team that much, but they are still decisions that will undoubtedly have an effect on the team.