Thoughts and observations on the Orioles' restructured deal with Yovani Gallardo

SARASOTA, Fla. — You have to give it to the Orioles. They keep what are usually the most boring days of spring training very suspenseful.

Well, the Orioles could have two new faces in camp Thursday. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who agreed to terms on a restructured two-year deal guaranteeing him $22 million, is expected to be at the Ed Smith Stadium complex  Thursday and could participate in his first workout as an Oriole the same day. And outfielder Dexter Fowler, whose three-year, $33 million deal is pending a physical, could be just behind him.


For the second time in three years, the Orioles took advantage of the qualifying offer process to get a pair of free agents tied to draft-pick compensation for what can be considered below-market deals.

The Orioles' previous three-year, $35 million agreement with Gallardo already seemed like a bargain, but now they will pay Gallardo just $20 million over the next two years and have a $13 million club option for a third year. The guaranteed money does include a $2 million buyout, which was already included in the previous deal's fourth-year option.


Just to compare: Left-hander J.A. Happ will make $36 million over the next three years from the Toronto Blue Jays. Right-hander Ian Kennedy, who was also tied to draft-pick compensation, will net $70 million in his five-year deal with the Kansas City Royals. Right-hander John Lackey has a two-year, $32 million deal with the Chicago Cubs and right-hander Marco Estrada signed a two-year, $26 million deal to stay in Toronto after the Jays made him a qualifying offer.

The Orioles will take heat for the snag in the Gallardo physical that prompted the sides to renegotiate the deal. There's no secret throughout the industry that the Orioles have one of the most stringent club physicals in baseball, and it's also no secret that plays a role in the fact that they haven't signed many free-agent arms to big deals over the years.

Yes, we can point to Grant Balfour and we can point to Aaron Sele and we can point to Xavier Hernandez, all pitchers whose deals with the Orioles broke down after failed physicals.

The difference between Gallardo's situation and the previous failed physicals is that Gallardo was tied to draft-pick compensation. His market was already murky because other teams were hesitant to give up a draft pick. Add in questions about his shoulder -- regardless of whether there were legitimate issues or the Orioles' super-strict standards -- and Gallardo didn't have many places to turn.

He could have waited it out to see if any opportunities emerged if pitchers got hurt elsewhere, but it seemed obvious that Gallardo wanted to get to camp and he knew Baltimore was a good fit for his high ground-ball rate and he could benefit from pitching in front of a power-packed lineup.

As I've written before, when the Orioles evaluate their physicals, they do so weighing whether they believe the player will maintain his health over the course of the deal.

Every pitcher will have some level of wear and tear on his shoulder, but it was obvious that the Orioles were concerned with Gallardo's health going into the third year of their original deal.

Back when Grant Balfour's two-year deal fell through, it was because the Orioles were concerned Balfour might get hurt in his second year. They had no immediate health concern for his first year.


Shoulders were the reason for concern with both and shoulder injuries are a legitimate concern. Shoulders accounted for the most common injury for pitchers in 2015. Last year, 80 different players went on the disabled list for shoulder injuries for a combined total of 5,157 days. Those players cost their teams a total of $77.65 million in lost time in 2015.

The fact that the Orioles and Gallardo were still able to consummate a deal after the snag in the physical says a lot about both sides wanting to get a deal done. Both had a lot to gain -- and plenty to lose -- by walking away.