Shockwaves rippled throughout the baseball world Wednesday morning when news got out that superstar shortstop Carlos Correa’s deal with the San Francisco Giants was called off due to his physical raising concerns the front office deemed too great. Instead, Correa became the umpteenth free agent to join the New York Mets.
As their fans are well aware, the Baltimore Orioles are no stranger to medical mishaps. The daunting “Orioles Physical” became such a common narrative that media and fans alike hesitated to call a deal official until they were sitting in the press room wearing an Orioles jersey. While the O’s haven’t gone through this with a player of Correa’s caliber (largely because they refuse to pursue anyone of Correa’s caliber), several would-be deals were either re-negotiated or nullified altogether. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to look at some recent examples, shall we?
The Aussie entered the 2013/14 offseason as one of the top relievers available after enjoying two seasons as the Oakland A’s closer wherein he accumulated 62 saves, 9.01 K/9, and a 2.56 ERA. The Orioles, who had recently traded closer Jim Johnson to the A’s themselves, were looking for a more cost effective back end of their bullpen. Both parties appeared to get what they wanted when Balfour agreed to a two year, $15 million dollar contract. That is, until the Orioles Physical happened.
Scans flagged Balfour’s shoulder as a concern and as a result, GM Dan Duquette chose to reneg on the agreement, a move that was undoubtedly the correct one in hindsight. Balfour signed with the Tampa Bay Rays after his Orioles contract fell through and pitched in two ineffective seasons before calling it a career. Instead of committing $7+ million to Balfour for 2014, Duquette signed DH Nelson Cruz for $8 million. Cruz went on to lead the team with 40 home runs. The closer role was eventually filled by Zack Britton, who became one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history for a brief period. The 2014 Orioles won 96 games and cruised to an AL East title. Yeah, I’d say that worked out for the O’s.
The 2015/16 offseason was a wild ride for the Baltimore Orioles and their fans alike. The O’s were actually, gasp, spending money! Mark Trumbo was acquired from the Seattle Mariners. Darren O’Day was re-signed despite stiff competition from other clubs. Matt Wieters was given a hefty qualifying offer, which he accepted. Hyun-Soo Kim was signed from Korea. Chris Davis got the money truck sent to his driveway. Dexter Fowler was an Oriole for like five minutes before he showed up at Cubs camp out of nowhere.
Yovani Gallardo was another acquisition the Orioles made that winter that often gets forgotten in lieu of the giant Davis contract, but that saga was not without drama. Gallardo was a mainstay atop the Milwaukee Brewers rotation before joining the Texas Rangers and having another successful season. The Orioles were looking to upgrade their own rotation and thought they did so when they and Gallardo agreed to a three year, $35 million deal.
That pesky physical, though! Gallardo’s MRI revealed a red flag, though not large enough for the Orioles to back out of the deal completely. The two parties renegotiated and signed a two year, $22 million deal with a third year option. Gallardo’s 2016 season was a woeful one, finishing with a 5.42 ERA while sporting a fastball that, like disco music, had trouble getting out of the mid 80’s. Gallardo was dealt to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Seth Smith after the 2016 season and spent portions of 2017 and 2018 with Seattle, the Rangers, and the Reds. He has not pitched in the majors since.
The Baltimore Orioles had not one, but two deals collapse during the 2013/14 offseason. Joining Grant Balfour was Tyler Colvin, a left handed hitting outfielder who raked against righties and was good for 15-20 homers per season when healthy. The key phrase there, obviously, is “when healthy”
The Orioles agreed to a major league deal with Colvin in early January before his physical indicated a persistent back issue was worse than initially thought. Colvin struggled with a disc injury during his final season with the Colorado Rockies, and the imaging was enough to make the Orioles have second thoughts. The O’s proposed a minor league deal to Colvin, who declined and ended up signing with the San Francisco Giants. In 149 plate appearances as a Giant, Colvin slashed .223/.268/.381 with 2 home runs in what was his last stint as a MLB player. Left field in Baltimore was eventually claimed by Steve Pearce, who emerged as one of the lynchpins of that 2014 Orioles team.
The Baltimore Orioles have gotten a great deal of flak for how stringent their physical process is but as evidenced above, the club has generally gotten these cases right. It remains to be seen if the issue with Carlos Correa will be something that impacts his career and makes the Mets regret inking him, but it just might behoove Major League Baseball franchises to borrow the Orioles fine-toothed comb.
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