Casey Close, the agent for outfielder Dexter Fowler, released a scathing statement directed at the Orioles and the media Thursday evening after his client signed with the Chicago Cubs.
The statement comes two days after it was widely reported that Fowler agreed to a three-year deal with the Orioles worth $33 million, though he later signed a shorter deal to remain in Chicago.
"In my 25 years in this business, never before have I witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts," Close wrote in a statement posted on his agency's Twitter account, Excel Sports Management. "Both the Orioles front office and members of the media were so busy recklessly spreading rumors that they forgot or simply chose not to concern themselves with the truth.
"The Orioles' willful disregard of collectively bargained rules governing free agency and the media's eager complicity in helping the Orioles violate those rules are reprehensible. Dexter Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club; any suggestion otherwise is only a continuation of an already disturbing trend."
Amid reports of an agreement on Tuesday evening, a high-ranking industry source told The Sun that Fowler had agreed to the three-year deal, pending a physical. On Wednesday, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he'd spoken to Fowler and that the potential free agent acquisition was excited to join the team, and might even have been on his way to Sarasota, Fla., for a physical.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, reached on Thursday night, reponded shortly after Close's statement was released.
"I'm not sure what that statement is about because his job is to represent his player," Duquette said. "If the player chooses to take less money to go to another team, that's their choice. … What is he going to say now, that it's not about the money?"
Fowler told the Chicago media at Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz., where he arrived as a surprise Thursday, that he had a three-year deal on the table from an unspecified team but never agreed to terms with the Orioles.
Likewise, Duquette said Thursday the team made a "very competitive offer" but never agreed because of Fowler's insistence on an opt-out.
Fowler left the three-year offer on the table in favor of a one-year contract worth $8 million that includes a $9 million mutual option for 2017 or a $5 million buyout. His deal with the Cubs guaranteed him at least $13 million, but still significantly less than the $15.8 million he turned down when he declined the qualifying offer earlier in the offseason.
Asked about Close's statement calling the Orioles' integrity into question, Duquette said that the team's pursuit of Fowler was whole-hearted.
"I didn't really see it that way," Duquette said. "We were sincere in our effort to sign the player."