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Tommy Hunter time? Orioles unlikely to sign a closer after botched Grant Balfour deal

Jan 13, 2014, 10:15 AM EST

Tommy Hunter Orioles Getty Images

When the Orioles’ contract with Grant Balfour fell apart over concerns about the health of his arm the assumption was that Baltimore would sign a different free agent to take over for Jim Johnson as closer.

However, that hasn’t happened yet and now Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles “are no longer focusing on a potential closer.”

According to Connolly they’re prepared to go into the season with in-house options for ninth-inning duties. In that scenario Tommy Hunter would be the presumed favorite after throwing 86 innings with a 2.81 ERA and 68/14 K/BB ratio in a setup role last season and Ryan Webb could also get a look.

  1. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    While I like Tommy Hunter for the closer role, I certainly would have preferred they sign another player, as this effectively weakens the team overall by having one less quality guy to get you to the closer.

    • dan1111 - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      Yeah, but signing a Proven Closer(tm) is the most expensive way to build a bullpen. They would be better off signing a setup man to replace Hunter or step into the closer’s role.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        I completely agree. If they are able to sign a player of the same quality to replace Hunter, I would be 100% for it. (Personally I think Darren O’Day will be the setup man). So far it doesn’t seem they are very interested in signing anyone.

  2. cmoney4949 - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    They have had a horrible off-season. Everyone else in the division is better. What a shame to waste the core talent the team has.

  3. sophiethegreatdane - Jan 13, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I wonder why Balfour has not signed elsewhere?

    Regarding Tommy Hunter, I just don’t know. I can see him blowing saves at the same rate as JJ last year, but can he be effective in the *other* games? I guess we’ll see. I do like the idea of finding a player to handle the role, instead of just handing it to a designated player who winds up being The Closer until said player pitches himself out of the role.

    The Orioles have more pressing needs right now. I sometimes wonder if they are not putting themselves into a holding pattern on purpose, waiting for Bundy to recover for 2015, and hoping he and Gausman are the keys to the rotation at that time.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      I wonder the same thing about Balfour. The doctors that agreed with him, were also doctors of teams that already were set in the closer’s role. I also find it hard to believe that Billy Beane would take on a 10 million dollar closer to replace a 5 million dollar closer of similar skill. I have to wonder if he knows something we don’t.

      They do seem to be placing all of their eggs into the Bundy/Gausman basket.

      • NYTolstoy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        I was also curious. I figured after the orioles botched the deal Balfour would of signed already. It might be that once Tanaka signs every other piece will have a domino affect. It’s so unusual to see that in mid Jan. Garza, Ulbaldo, Santana, Balfour and even Rodney are still on the market. Interesting off season

      • APBA Guy - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        To understand why Balfour is gone, you had to be there when Balfour was pitching, and understand that he was going to make more than $ 5m/yr in free agency, based on his stats.

        The A’s game against the Angels Sept 18 is a good example. The A’s had a lead going into the 9th. Balfour comes out. Angels are loaded with fastball hitters, so Aybar, the #2 guy, slaps a single to lead off. Next up is Trout, who has hit a homer in each game of the series, he flies out to deep right, just missing it. Call it a warning shot. Maybe Balfour should try a breaking ball or two. Hamilton is up next. You do not throw Josh a fastball strike. It’s the only pitch he can hit these days. But that’s about all that Balfour can throw for a strike. So Josh deposits one into the seats to tie the game, which the A’s eventually lose.

        It wasn’t that Balfour blew a lot of saves. He didn’t. But he didn’t miss bats against good fastball hitters. And the G & P Beane isn’t looking to just get through 162 right now, he thinks this team can win. With the extra TV money, he could do a one-year deal for a big $$ closer, even though everyone expects Johnson to blow a few. At least he has a big-league slider to go with his FB.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        Well, just be prepared, Johnson is not going to miss many bats. He’s a sinker ball pitcher. When he’s hot, he’s untouchable, when he’s not, he gives up a LOT of singles in the gaps. If he can keep the ball at the knees he’s really fun to watch, but if that ball elevates, the sinker flattens out and it gets crushed a long way. Johnson relies heavily on the double play, so you can expect a lot of people on the bases even when he’s on. He should be a good fit in that stadium, but you’ll certainly want to make sure you have a really good 6-4-3.

  4. roarfrom384 - Jan 13, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    The Orioles are definitely in a holding pattern for 2015. At least I hope……… That is fine with me as long as they are ready to strike when the that time comes. The AL East will take a few reliable solid starters as well as an ace or two. Right now they have a few reliable starters. Maybe…… I hope……

  5. plmathfoto - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I’ve seen in several places that they don’t think Hunter can pitch two days in a row, etc.. We will see

  6. pbastille - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    One would think that with the Ravens missing the playoffs and losing a bit of their luster that Angelos would want to pounce on the opportunity to regain a little of the lost entertainment dollar. But no….

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      MASN and MASN2 are too valuable for him to worry about anything the Ravens are doing.

      • pbastille - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        Don’t forget about the asbestosis income too. He represented my dad in a class action lawsuit against the USCG for asbestos exposure (my dad worked on cutter engines, which had a lot of wiring wrapped in asbestos). My dad’s first check from Angelos? In the neighborhood of $5.00-$6.00 (that’s a decimal, not a comma). His firm made $500 million between all of their cases. To date my dad (and his estate when he passed) received less than $1,000. Angelos’s PR says that cases were all settled for between $60K and $8 million. Something smells fishy, and its not the white perch belly up in the inner harbor.

  7. georgegsmiller - Jan 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    I predict the O’s will not invest in one quality free agent this off season (signing free agents to minor league contracts does not count). So what will they have to show for this off season in terms of adding any free agents? ZERO! Please refrain from writing any future stories regarding the O’s plans before Spring Training… you know the stories where Dan Duquette says the O’s are “still looking to sign a Starting Pitcher and a corner Outfielder”. It’s not going to happen. Meanwhile, the O’s have lost a closer, Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and other utility guys for exactly what in return? Pretty pathetic.

    Please do not insult the O’s fans intelligence with reports saying otherwise… because we all know Angelos does not intend to spend any $$. Nor will he for the entire 2014 season. What a disgrace to the city of Baltimore… they deserve a lot more than this penny pincher owner.

  8. yahmule - Jan 13, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Hunter showed vast improvement last year, but he still gets roped by lefthanded batters.

  9. oriolesvsravens - Jan 13, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Can’t be a contender shopping at the waiver pile. Wish they would open up their pocketbooks.

  10. TheBirdsAreBackinBmore - Jan 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Tommy “BIG GAME” Hunter will be fine as the closer. But i think they should switch it up when lefties are up. He gets crushed! I am not nearly as pessimistic as the rest of you. I think with the progression of some of our younger players the orioles should remain competitive. They simply arnt good enough to win the division, but competitive. DD knows that winning enough will bring fans, thats all thats happening here, They just want income from the fans. If they were smart they’d make one big splash before this fanfest happens. Get the birds chirpin god dangit

  11. adamfeu - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Reblogged this on baltimorebogus.

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