Balfour, Choate, others decline arbitration
UPDATE, 9:14: Balfour said he feels he has pitched well enough to get a multi-year deal and the decision to decline arbitration - and the 1-year, non-guaranteed deal that comes with it - was "not really that tough, to be honest with you.'' Balfour said he'd be open to returning to the Rays under a multi-year deal, but "I would have liked to have heard something" before now. He said he expects interest from several teams despite his Type A designation (which means the signing team has to give up a draft pick). "I'll take my chances on what I've done the past few years,'' he said. "I believe there's a multi-year deal out there for me.''
UPDATE, 8:11: Choate said he's very open to returning to the Rays, but also that there are "some other options I wouldn't mind exploring.'' Three other teams have expressed interest, and while he'd like a multi-year deal it's also important to him to have the security of a guaranteed deal. Most arbitration deals are not guaranteed, allowing the team to pay just a portion of the salary by releasing the player during spring training.
UPDATE, 7:22: Balfour, Choate and the five other Rays free agents offered arbitration have all declined. They can still negotiate with the Rays, but the decision to decline arbitration provides an indication they are looking for more.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are waiting to hear from RHP Grant Balfour on whether he'll accept their offer of arbitration and return to their bullpen on a one-year deal, or decline and continue to explore free agency.
Balfour seems to be the only one of the seven offered arbitration that might accept by tonight's midnight deadline, as he weighs the raise he would get through arbitration from his $2.05-million salary to what he could get on the market, though his offers may be limited since the signing team has to give up a draft pick as he is a Type A free agent.
Type B Randy Choate would be another candidate, but is unlikely since he would seem to be able to do better on the market. Type B's Brad Hawpe and Chad Qualls likely agreed to decline arbitration before it was offered, as their signing wouldn't cost their new team anything but would yield the Rays another compensation pick. Joaquin Benoit, the other Type B, has to decline since he already signed with Detroit.
Type A's Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano will both decline since they are in line for multi-year big-dollar deals, most likely with the Angels, who apparently have the financial capabilities to sign both.