Balfour welcomed as A's reach deals with four

Balfour welcomed as A's reach deals with four

Balfour welcomed as A's reach deals with four
OAKLAND -- On a day devoted mostly to determining costs, the A's newest member reflected on something priceless.

Grant Balfour's two-year, $8.1 million contract with a club option for 2013 became official Tuesday, while dozens of other Major Leaguers weighed offers prompted by the customs of salary arbitration.

Balfour catapulted himself toward his lucrative deal with an impressive 2010 performance that included a 2.28 ERA and a .216 opponents' batting average in 57 appearances for Tampa Bay.

Balfour managed to excel while his father, David, endured a rare form of cancer. The elder Balfour was diagnosed in March after the discovery of a malignancy near his stomach. A Whipple procedure, commonly associated with pancreatic cancer, was performed on David in May. He since has been declared cancer-free.

As one of the few Australians in the Major Leagues, Balfour frequently found his thoughts traveling half a world away as he thought of his father, who lives in Sydney.

"It's tough," said Balfour, 33. "You want to get on the plane to be with him and help him. He wanted me to stay here and concentrate on baseball."

With his father healthy and gaining weight, Balfour can focus primarily on pitching as he launches his A's career. After making a point of thanking the Rays, with whom he compiled a 14-7 record with a 3.33 ERA and 234 strikeouts in 203 innings from 2007-10, Balfour compared his new team to his old one.

"The pitching's similar to where I came from -- a young rotation with a lot of upside," Balfour said. Regarding the postseason, which he reached twice with Tampa Bay, Balfour said of the A's, "Looking at the team we have, I think we have a really good chance."

Balfour would appear to improve those chances. He has struck out 207 batters in 181 innings spanning the last three seasons. "We have a lot of different looks in the bullpen," A's general manager Billy Beane said, contrasting Balfour with sinkerballer Brad Ziegler, who coaxes ground ball after ground ball.

The A's bullpen will diversify even more once they finalize free-agent left-hander Brian Fuentes' two-year contract. The A's are waiting for Fuentes to pass the requisite physical examination.

"With some of the available resources we have left, we felt like that our money was best spent in his area, because it's still a zero-sum game," said Beane, who couldn't discuss Fuentes' signing because it wasn't yet official.

Additionally, Oakland avoided arbitration with left-hander Dallas Braden, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and outfielders Conor Jackson and Josh Willingham. Braden settled for $3.35 million, a vast increase over the $420,000 he earned last year. Kouzmanoff will earn $4.75 million, up from $3.1 million. Jackson's salary inched to $3.2 million, up from $3.1 million, while Willingham coaxed an increase to $6 million from $4.6 million.

Left-hander Craig Breslow remained Oakland's lone arbitration-eligible player. Teams and arbitration-eligible players were scheduled to exchange proposals on one-year contracts Tuesday, accounting for the flurry of deals. Breslow filed for $1.55 million; the A's countered with $1.15 million. Beane anticipated a settlement with him.

"It's always best for all parties to get a negotiated settlement," Beane said.

Oakland designated right-hander Clayton Mortensen for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Balfour. In addition, right-hander Philip Humber was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.