Yovani Gallardo had little choice but to take Baltimore's revised deal

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Yovani Gallardo was the latest Orioles addition to run afoul of the team's medical evaluation.

Ron Jenkins

OK, I was wrong. There will be no case of the Orioles vs. Yovani Gallardo. The Orioles got what they wanted Wednesday night, persuading Gallardo to accept a restructured two-year deal with an option rather than his original three-year, $35 million free-agent contract, according to major-league sources.

Gallardo was trapped, and the Orioles knew it. The qualifying offer already had diminished Gallardo’s value, forcing a team to lose a high draft pick to sign him. The Orioles’ concerns over his shoulder, as reported by The Baltimore Sun, would have made him even less appealing if he went back into the market.

By agreeing to the restructured deal, Gallardo either is unwilling to fight, conceding the Orioles’ point or both. Whether the team’s concerns prove valid, well, we’ll find out over the next two years; Gallardo is guaranteed $22 million over that time, with a chance to make $33 million over three years if his option is exercised, sources said.

Gallardo, who will turn 30 on Feb. 27, has averaged 191 innings the past seven seasons. He never has been on the disabled list with an arm injury. Durability, for heaven’s sake, is one of his assets. But from Xavier Hernandez to Aaron Sele, Jeromy Burnitz to Grant Balfour, the Orioles under owner Peter Angelos have swung this hammer before.

Former Orioles GM Jim Duquette, speaking Wednesday on MLB Network Radio, recounted some of his own deals that went awry when Angelos raised concerns about a player’s physical condition – Mike Lowell, Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas, ahem, ahem, ahem.

“That’s how Peter plays general manager,” another former Orioles GM, Frank Wren, told The New York Times in 2006 when he was Braves GM (Wren now is the Red Sox’s senior vice-president of baseball operations). “He uses medical reasons to kill or change a deal if he doesn’t like it.”

Therein lies the rub.

Angelos has every right to be a stickler for clean medicals in this age of multimillion-dollar contracts. What’s more, when the team declined to complete Balfour’s deal two years ago, Orioles GM Dan Duquette pointed out that medical opinions vary from doctor to doctor, processes from team to team.

The O’s have signed other free agents without incident this offseason and throughout Angelos’ tenure. They needed to examine Gallardo carefully, particularly when he would cost them $35 million and a top-30 pick (the Orioles will forfeit the Nos. 14 and 28 selections if they complete their agreements with Gallardo and free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler).

If not for the Orioles’ history, few would question their additional scrutiny of Gallardo; other teams also void trades and signings because of medical concerns. But again: Was Gallardo’s reported shoulder issue an actual threat to his future health or merely an excuse for Angelos to change a deal that some have already criticized, mostly because it would cost the team a pick?

Former major-league outfielder Mike Cameron, who played for eight teams in 17 seasons, offered an interesting perspective on Twitter, saying: “Can somebody remind the Orioles that every player in MLB is gonna have something show up in his physical and MRIs?”

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Grant Balfour still hasn't settled his contract grievance with the Orioles.

Brian Blanco / Getty Images North America

Balfour filed a grievance when the Orioles backed out of his two-year, $15 million free-agent contract two years ago, leaving him to sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays; the case still has not been resolved, according to major-league sources. Gallardo would have been a candidate for a grievance if the O’s had quashed his deal entirely.

Some O’s fans like to point out that the team often is right with his medical assessments; to an extent, that is true. But many on the players’ side believe that the team is too quick to pounce on any sliver of potentially damning medical evidence. As one player rep said Wednesday night: “That is why the Orioles should always be every player’s last choice.”

Thing is, the Orioles under Duquette shrewdly have waited until they were the only choice in many cases, striking late in the offseason on Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz two years ago and now with Fowler and Gallardo.

The problem for Gallardo was that the meaning of an MRI is in the eye of the beholder. The late date and limited market left him no choice. He was beholden to the Orioles.

 

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