How exactly is it possible to have physicals scheduled with two free agents and barely end up with either one? Just leave that to the Orioles. After balking at the original terms of Yovani Gallardo’s deal due to “fairly common” shoulder symptoms, the O’s have now lost Dexter Fowler to the Cubs thanks to their hard stance against opt-out clauses in contracts.
Fowler spoke to Adam Jones just yesterday, was excited to join the team, and supposedly en route to Sarasota for his physical. But something obviously changed. The Cubs swooped in with a contract (and a team) that Fowler obviously found more attractive, albeit for less guaranteed money. And when Dan Duquette wouldn’t match the shorter-term-commitment potential of the competing offer, Fowler bolted for the championship-caliber Cubs.
I’d like to say that this situation is an anomaly, a rare case of a player changing his mind at the last minute that can’t be blamed on the club. But I can’t say that at all. Instead, the Fowler situation is the latest in a long line of examples of the Orioles being too rigid for their own good. So rigid that they end up losing players whose additions should be mere formalities.
I’ve heard a lot these past few days about how the team’s willingness to spend on Gallardo and Fowler after bringing back 3 of 4 major internal free agents signals them being “all in” on winning in the short term. I see things very differently. An “all in” mentality would mean bending on an opt-out policy to aggressively bid on more certain starting pitching upgrades earlier in free agency. It would mean looking past a minor fray in a pitcher’s shoulder labrum to ensure that a deal doesn’t crumble. And it would mean allocating dollars as efficiently as possible to maximize the 2016 team’s performance, not bidding against oneself for a popular player and drawing unwarranted monetary lines in the sand for everyone else.
I won’t pin this on any one person or faction of the organization or front office; you can draw your own conclusions there. But what’s clear to me is this: the Orioles are anything but being “all in” to win over the next few seasons. Their hard-line stances are as solid as ever, whether it costs them wins or not. Want an opt-out clause? Sorry David Price and Zach Grienke and Scott Kazmir and Jason Heyward and Wei-Yin Chen and Yoenis Cespedes and Johnny Cueto. You’re not eligible to sign with the O’s. Want an industry-standard physical?Sorry Yovani Gallardo. We want you, but only if you’ll sign for $13 million less to offset a typical shoulder irregularity for pitchers of your experience. Want $100 million or more if your name isn’t Chris Davis? That’s not happening either. And as of this moment, neither is fielding a team that’s better on paper than last year’s bunch. If you’re the Orioles anyway. Their unmoving set of beliefs always seem to win out, which makes me question just how important the on-field wins really are to them.