The decision to turn down the Rays' offer of arbitration wasn't difficult at all for Grant Balfour.
"Not really," Balfour said Tuesday night. "It's a one-year deal. Why would I want that when I can go out and find a multiyear deal somewhere else? Or, who knows, maybe the Rays will want (to sign me to a multiyear deal). I'm not going to close the door on anyone. That would be crazy to do that. I enjoyed pitching for them. I feel like I'd like a multiyear deal. I see a lot of guys getting multiyear deals that I feel haven't pitched as good as me in the past few years, so I feel like maybe I'm deserving of that without being greedy."
Balfour was one of seven Rays free agents who declined the team's offer of arbitration before Tuesday's midnight deadline.
Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit (who already signed with the Tigers) were no-brainers. Crawford and Soriano are two of the prizes of this free-agent class.
Chad Qualls, Brad Hawpe and Randy Choate also said no thanks to a one-year deal with the Rays and opted to try their luck on the free-agent market.
If all seven sign major-league contracts with other teams, the Rays will receive 10 high-round draft picks in the June draft.
Of the seven, only Choate, who made $700,000 last season, and Balfour ($2.05 million in 2010) were thought to be considering a return to the Rays. Both said they enjoyed their time in Tampa Bay and both said they would be open to arbitration.
Balfour is a Type A free agent, meaning whichever team signs him will lose its 2011 first-round pick to the Rays. That could be a steep price to pay for a reliever who is not a closer or setup man.
Balfour, represented by the same agency that landed a $16.5 million, three-year deal for Benoit, believes that won't be an issue.
"I believe there's interest out there, and I'm looking forward to see what comes of it whether it's with the Rays or whether it's a fresh start somewhere else," Balfour said. "I feel like I can be pretty good for a lot of teams. I feel pretty confident where I'm at right now, the way I threw the ball last year and the past three years, really. I just look forward to see what comes of it. I'm sure I'll be somewhere. I'll make the most of what's out there."