SARASOTA, FLA. — Grapefruit League games don't begin until Tuesday, but there's been plenty to write about at Orioles camp during the first week of spring training.
On the field, it's been pretty boring. You can only watch so many PFP drills before you want to poke your eyes out. And there aren't that many position battles this spring.
But the Orioles have still managed to keep it exciting. From their concerns about Yovani Gallardo's shoulder that prompted a restructuring of his contract to a two-year, $22-million deal to the latest on Thursday, the messy and mysterious case of outfielder Dexter Fowler.
The Orioles thought they had a three-year, $33 million deal with Fowler, but on Thursday Fowler made a surprise appearance at Chicago Cubs camp after signing a freshly minted one-year deal that will guarantee him $13 million.
Fowler's heart led him back to the Cubs. The fact that no one else would be willing to give him a one-year flier or a second-year opt-out didn't hurt. Fowler's agent, Casey Close, had his say on Thursday night, lambasting the Orioles and the media for reporting that the sides agreed to terms.
Fowler was tied to draft-pick compensation after declining the $15.8 million qualifying offer. Once it appeared obvious he wasn't going to get a lucrative multi-year deal, he wanted a shorter-term deal, but the only team willing to give him a one-year deal was the only team that wouldn't have to give up a draft pick – the Cubs.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Fowler's desire to get an opt-out clause was the reason the deal fell apart.
But how did it get that far that the opt-out was the dealbreaker?
Duquette hasn't been clear on many things this offseason. He wavered on whether the club was willing to forfeit a draft pick. Deals with known commodities like Chris Davis and Darren O'Day took some time.
But Duquette has been perfectly clear on opt-out clauses. He doesn't like them. He won't do them. Fat chance trying to get one by him. They're not in the best interest of the club, he has said. And for an executive who keeps a lot close to the vest, Duquette has been very open about his disdain for the opt-out.
That's one thing I don't understand, and the other is why Orioles center fielder Adam Jones would all but lay out an orange carpet for Fowler, saying Wednesday morning that he had talked to Fowler, that Fowler was excited about a pending deal and expected to be on his way to Sarasota.
That didn't happen, obviously. But the mystery remains.