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Looking at the Orioles' negotiations with Bronson Arroyo and the Grant Balfour effect

Major League BaseballBaseballBronson ArroyoBaltimore OriolesGrant BalfourArizona Diamondbacks

There was a sense throughout the industry that the Orioles' decision to back away from closer Grant Balfour after his failed physical in December could adversely affect the club going forward.

That reality apparently played a part in them not landing veteran starter Bronson Arroyo, who signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday. Arroyo will get a guaranteed $23.5 million over two years -- $9.5 million each season and an $11 million option in 2016 that includes a $4.5 million buyout.

According to multiple sources, the Orioles' final offer to Arroyo was exceptionally competitive with Arizona's, with the guaranteed money similar but slightly lower. But there was a chance for Arroyo to make more money with the Orioles than with the Diamondbacks if a third-year option had kicked in.

So this wasn’t a case of the Orioles being cheap -- slow to put their best foot forward perhaps; there's a sense that if their final offer came three weeks ago, then Arroyo would have signed -- but the money eventually was right there.

The Orioles believe that, ultimately, Arroyo chose pitching in the National League West, with its spacious ballparks and pitchers hitting, over the rough-and-tumble American League East.

No question that was a factor in Arroyo's decision. So was the Diamondbacks' hot pursuit of Arroyo versus the Orioles' slow-burn approach.

But, according to one source, another serious factor was that the Orioles had failed two players' physicals this offseason -- outfielder Tyler Colvin's one-year deal and the high-profile decision to walk away from Balfour and his two-year, $15 million agreement due to concerns about his right shoulder.

Arroyo will be 37 this month. He has never been on the disabled list. He keeps himself in tremendous shape. But he also has thrown more than 2,300 innings, counting playoffs, in his major league career. Certainly, there is wear and tear on his arm -- no way there couldn't be.

The concern, the source said, was that if the Orioles weren't 100 percent committed to Arroyo and the deal they had offered, the club could pull back on the deal after the physical and attempt to re-negotiate an agreement.

And, this late in the offseason, especially with a 37-year-old, there'd be very little chance he could find a similar contract elsewhere if he were perceived as potentially damaged goods.

It's impossible to say that was the leading factor in Arroyo's decision to go to Arizona, but it seemingly played a part.

The Orioles can't change which division they play in. They won't change their negotiating philosophies -- they'll just never be an organization that puts its best offer out first. It's always a process with the Orioles.

And, frankly, time may prove that they were absolutely correct in shying away from Balfour and Colvin. It's their money and their prerogative to trust their doctors, and they are under no obligation to seal a deal until after a physical.

But there has to be an understanding that those decisions have collateral damage. And Arroyo going elsewhere seems to be one example -- at least, in part -- of that.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Major League BaseballBaseballBronson ArroyoBaltimore OriolesGrant BalfourArizona Diamondbacks
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