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Reliever Grant Balfour leaves Tampa Bay Rays for Oakland A's

ST. PETERSBURG — The exodus from the Rays bullpen is nearly complete, as Grant Balfour agreed Friday to a two-year, $8.1 million deal with the A's.

This week, Balfour had been considering a return to the Rays on a one-year contract but then got the multiyear deal he had been seeking.

With his departure, the Rays have lost six of the eight pitchers who threw their most relief innings last season, with a seventh, Lance Cormier, still on the free agent market. Only Andy Sonnanstine returns.

The massive makeover was expected. "The whole time we've been plotting to reconstruct our bullpen, so hopefully we don't miss a beat," manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays have signed Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth (whose deal is expected to be finalized today) and acquired Adam Russell in trade. They are still seeking a closer, with Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch among the possibilities. The other spots will be filled during spring training.

"We lack that one closer yet, but we have some nice physical arms," Maddon said. "We could surprise some people."

Balfour, who made $2.05 million this past season, will get $3.75 million in 2011 and $4 million in 2012, with either a $350,000 buyout or $4.5 million option for 2013.

In other Rays news:

• Outfielder B.J. Upton and Sonnanstine were the only eligible Rays to file for salary arbitration by Friday's deadline, with figures to be exchanged Tuesday.

• ESPN.com reported the Rays were one of five teams to express interest in free agent DH Manny Ramirez. The Angels, Twins, Rangers and Jays were the others.

Twins keep Thome: DH Jim Thome, 40, re-signed with Minnesota for one year, $3 million.

Arbitration: AL MVP Josh Hamilton of the Rangers headed the list of 119 players who filed for salary arbitration. About half are expected to settle by Tuesday, though three did Friday: righty Matt Belisle (Colorado, $2.35 million), reliever Joel Zumaya (Detroit, $1.4 million), and outfielder Alex Gordon (Kansas City, $1.4 million).

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Reliever Grant Balfour leaves Tampa Bay Rays for Oakland A's 01/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 10:57pm]

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