Advertisement

Orioles physicals, and issues arising in them, have little historic downside

Forget what the short-term implications of losing the best starting pitcher remaining on the market, Yovani Gallardo, would be if the complications arising from his physical with the Orioles can't be resolved.

The team's noteworthy histories with its extensive physicals has been culled in recent days by those who want to christen the latest saga "peak Orioles," and not in a good way, and ascribe ulterior motives to the physical issues.

Advertisement

Others, as FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan did, take a reasoned approach to the whole thing in this article that's worth reading.

That's because rarely, if at all, has the team's repositioning of its stance between the time of the initial agreement and the physical gone badly. In all of the high-profile cases that have come out recently, only the loss of starter Aaron Sele really proved to be an issue.

That's all discounting the number of players (if there are any) whose agents or own doctors steered them away from Baltimore because of the physical, too. But either way, pre-contract physicals are a big deal with the Orioles.

As former team executive Jim Duquette (and cousin of current executive vice president Dan Duquette) said this morning on his SiriusXM Radio show, "when the owner decides he's injured, it's hard to change his mind."

Most recently, the physicals impacted two contracts entering the 2014 season —reliever Grant Balfour and outfielder Tyler Colvin. Balfour was seen as a late-inning solution after the team traded closer Jim Johnson that offseason, but after agreeing a two-year deal worth $15 million, Balfour's physical turned up shoulder issues.

This was where the Orioles' physicals were given the most scrutiny. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who covered the team previously, called it a pattern spanning more than a decade. He dug up a New York Times quote from former Orioles executive Frank Wren, who in 2006 said owner Peter Angelos uses the physical as he "plays general manager."

"He uses medical reasons to kill or change a deal if he doesn't like it," Wren said.

Balfour made 65 appearances for the Rays in 2014, but couldn't hang onto his closing job and made just six appearances in the majors last season. Colvin, whose back injury ended up causing an issue with his deal, also hasn't produced much since the deal.

Wren was the Orioles' general manager for one of their issues with post-agreement physicals, when the team voided the contract of reliever Xavier Hernandez in 1999 due to a partially torn rotator cuff that appeared in his physical. A grievance ensued, but the team didn't ultimately miss out on anything — Hernandez never again pitched in the majors.

A year later, Sele was set to come to the Orioles to add quality to the starting rotation, but the team tried to bring down the reported four-year, $29 million after concerns about his shoulder. And in an odd bit of trivia, Sele, like Gallardo, was slated to be the fifth right-hander in the rotation that year.

Sele went on to have two good seasons and one mediocre one before shoulder surgery, and pitched to a 5.19 ERA in the ensuing five seasons.

Others to have deals altered or backed out on because of physicals were outfielder Jeromy Burnitz in 2006 and pitcher Jair Jurrjens in 2013. The latter ultimately signed a minor league deal because of a knee issue.

How this history informs the way forward with Gallardo is unclear. Any kind of change in the agreement would create the rare and beautiful Internet moment of those who panned the deal in the first place panning the Orioles for not following through on it. As our reporters in Sarasota have noted, the draft pick compensation also plays a factor in this, though less once the Dexter Fowler agreement is official.

All it means in the short-term, however, is that an offseason that the Orioles spent smashing stereotypes against themselves about spending and ambition has found a way to tie back in some of the less-desirable aspects of their past in the national view, and that's bad for all involved.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement