In addition to being let go as free agents by Tampa Bay, Benoit and Balfour have more in common. Both signed 3 year contracts coming off the season in Tampa, with Benoit getting $16.5 million from Detroit and Balfour getting $12.25 million from Oakland. By opening day of 2014, both will be 36 years of age. And while both pitchers have been solid for the last four plus seasons, they both made their MLB debuts in 2001 (12 years ago). As they enter free agency, teams should be wary of giving either the big contract they will be seeking. However, there will be a team that will do it.
Balfour had 24 saves in 2012. He has backed it up by going 1-3, 2.72 in 62 games and 66 Ks in 59 2/3 IP this season. Teams looking for a closer, such as the Yankees, Cubs, Rockies and others would ideally want to sign him to a 1 year contract, maybe throw in an option or two to be safe. That would be the best deal for the soon to be 36 year old. Even if the one year contract pays $8-$10 million, the signing team should get their money's worth.
Benoit is functioning as a closer for the first time in his big league career. His work in the Tigers bullpen has probably been underappreciated until this season, as he has pitched to a 4-1, 1.91, 22 saves in 61 games with 65 Ks in 61 1/3 IP. While Oakland will unlikely overpay to keep Balfour, Benoit has a good chance to return to Detroit. Other teams have control over that though, as a team that pays Benoit closer's money will likely be able to pry him away from the Tigers.
Overall, I feel a team will give both Balfour and Benoit 3 years in their next contract. I do not agree with it, but it will likely happen. Teams like Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Angels), Texas and New York (Yankees and Mets) are all seriously considering upgrades in regards to their current bullpen situation. Though the market for middle relievers getting 4 year contracts has gone away, Balfour and Benoit will probably get paid like closers (Which they are). In a 3 year deal, the signing team will probably get a very good first season from their new signee. I have my doubts, though, about getting anything close to value in year two and three. But, as we have seen, that will not stop a team for giving both these pitchers that type of committment.