Former Oakland Athletic Grant Balfour delivers a pitch against the...

Former Oakland Athletic Grant Balfour delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during a baseball game in Houston. (Jan. 23, 2014) Credit: AP

The Mets made a play for free-agent closer Grant Balfour, but he instead chose to sign with the Rays on Thursday for two years and $12 million.

The Mets made a comparable offer to Balfour, according to a baseball source, but believe he ultimately decided he prefers to live in Florida. There is no state income tax in Florida. The Rays also are a contender; the Mets hope to be one.

Upgrading their bullpen would help the Mets, but it was not known until Thursday that they were negotiating with Balfour, who saved 36 games for the Athletics last season.

Bobby Parnell is slated to be the Mets' closer, but he is coming off back surgery. Parnell recently said will be ready to go for spring training.

Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15-million deal with Baltimore earlier this offseason, but the Orioles walked away because of unspecified concerns in Balfour's medical reports.

The Mets also are aware that shortstop Stephen Drew remains unsigned. Although the Scott Boras client is considered an upgrade over Ruben Tejada, the Mets have not been willing to offer Drew a lucrative contract, instead waiting for him to fall to them.

Drew spent last season with the Red Sox. A return to Boston seems less likely after Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington recently said: "I think the time that's being spent on it being talked about publicly is not necessarily consistent with the time we're spending on it."


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