Grant Balfour’s two-year, $15 million contract agreement with the Baltimore Orioles was officially nixed on Friday and Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal is reporting the 35-year-old veteran is considering filing a grievance against the team as a result.
The latest news comes after Orioles general manager Dan Duquette confirmed he was left unsatisfied by the results of Balfour's pre-signing physical exam. The Orioles remained open to negotiating a more team friendly contract with the former Oakland A's closer, but Duquette states they were unable to come to terms on a deal and were now focusing on other targets.
It's a rare but not entirely unusual occurrence when a physical gets in the way of a contract agreement becoming official. Just last winter the Boston Red Sox backed out of their three-year, $39 million agreement with Mike Napoli after discovering he suffered from a chronic hip condition. Understanding Boston's concern and left with few other options, Napoli settled on a one-year, $5 million with Boston to prove he was still healthy and productive. That's exactly what he did, too, and he was rewarded this offseason with a new two-year deal worth $32 million.
The Napoli case was the most notable one we've seen in recent years, but the circumstances are quite a bit different in Balfour's case. Mainly because Balfour insists he's 100% healthy and ready to roll in 2014.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 20, 2013
But it's not just talk on Balfour's end. According to Rosenthal's latest report for Fox Sports, two doctors, including Rays team physician Koco Eaton, agree that Balfour's shoulder looks healthy and concerns should not have impeded a deal getting done.
Here's what Eaton had to say following his examination of Balfour on Friday.
“The MRI that I did on him today looked exactly the same as the MRI I did three years ago,” said Eaton, who cared for Balfour with the Rays from 2007 to ’10 and performed his physical when the pitcher signed a two-year, $8.1 million free-agent contract with the Athletics in Jan. 2011.
“It did not look normal compared to a person who does not play baseball for a living. But for someone who plays baseball for a living, it looked normal. There are abnormalities on the MRI as there are on every single baseball player’s. But three years ago, there was no issue, and he had pretty good performance when he was with Oakland.”
This led to Balfour's representation accusing the Orioles of getting cold feet at the last minute.
“Grant is completely healthy and that was told to us today by Dr. Koco Eaton, a well-respected club physician (with the Tampa Bay Rays)."
"Dr. Tim Kremchek (Cincinnati Reds), another well-respected club physician, reviewed the Orioles’ medical report and advised that he is remarkably impressed that there has been little change in Grant’s arm for almost 10 years. Now factor into the equation that Grant was a 2013 All-Star, pitched 65 games and another 3 scoreless innings in the postseason with a 94-95 mph fastball. The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds."
All of their findings and opinions are probably spot on, but it doesn't seem like there would be much of a case against the Orioles since the agreement was pending a physical and it's difficult to argue against Baltimore's 'opinion' of the results. Still, that hasn't stopped some respected baseball writers, including Hall of Famer Peter Gammons, from questioning the Orioles methods and the system in place that allows teams to back out of agreements without consequence.
Why don't MLB and the MLBPA have joint medicals so teams can't back out of contracts, like the Balfour case? Dr. Tim Kremchek and Dr. Koco..
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 20, 2013
Eaton both say Balfour is fine. O's have a history. This requires the attention of Tony Clark and Rob Manfred.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 20, 2013
It has been an offseason of significant change so far. Perhaps this issue is another that will be addressed in the coming weeks. It's certainly worth looking into, but again, it will be difficult to prove the team's opinion is wrong when doctors can't technically say a pitcher's arm is 100% healthy.
Perhaps you're of a different opinion on this matter. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.
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