It’s unfortunate that Grant Balfour’s new contract with the Oakland Athletics is overshadowed by the fact that his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, now own eleven of the first eighty-nine picks in next year’s draft, including nine before the start of the second round.  But what can you do?

Balfour, whose market may have been hampered by his Type A status, will earn $8.1 million over two years, which is significantly less than the $16.5 million over three years that Joaquin Benoit will make with the Detroit Tigers.

But he joins an underrated Oakland pitching staff that continues to look better and better.  Behind a young starting rotation that includes Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, the Athletics bullpen should be more than capable of keeping leads, with Balfour, closer Andrew Bailey, Brad Zeigler and lefty Craig Breslow.

There are four remaining free agents who could earn their former teams compensation and change the current draft order around slightly, but that’s including another former Tampa Bay Rays reliever, Chad Qualls, who is very close to making his deal with the San Diego Padres official.

A worst case scenario would give the Rays twelve of the first ninety-three picks and ten before the start of the second round.  The Rays could have more picks before round two than other teams will have by the conclusion of round ten.  Several experts have claimed that 2011 will be the deepest draft in recent memory.

Update: As part of their agreement with Balfour, the Athletics will not offer arbitration to Balfour at the end of the contract.  I wonder if he felt the pinch.