Baltimore Orioles left at the altar by Dexter Fowler

Courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Dexter Fowler has reversed course and signed back in Chicago, leaving the Baltimore Orioles in the dust.

This has been an interesting week for the Baltimore Orioles. The latest of course is that their projected right fielder, Dexter Fowler, has left them at the altar. Earlier this week the Orioles had apparently agreed in principle to a $35 million dollar contract over three years with Fowler. As of this afternoon, he re-signed with the Chicago Cubs – for one year, $13 million.

If something smells fishy here on paper…it shouldn’t. And I do sincerely mean that. Fowler obviously had done everything except report to Sarasota and sign the Orioles’ contract. That’s what an agreement in principle pending a physical means. And quite literally until a player has signed a contract, he’s still technically a free agent.

So on paper, there’s really no wrongdoing here by anybody. But that’s on paper. What does appear to be evident (contrary to what the Orioles are saying officially) is that a handshake or gentleman’s agreement had been reached. Numerous Oriole players expressed excitement over the propspects of their new teammate, and Fowler himself was supposedly on the way to Sarasota.

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  • Courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
    Courtesy of Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

    The reports seem to indicate that Fowler wanted a three-year deal with an opt-out clause. The Orioles, as we know, don’t do that – and that’s something with which I’m totally in agreement. You’re stupid if you’re willing to give someone a legal avenue by which to welsh on a deal. That’s really what an opt-out is. You’re signing for three years, but you want the option of negating the deal after one year in case you have a career season and you think you can get more money on the open market.

    The only difference between an opt-out and truly welshing on the deal is that in the case of an opt-out it’s written into the contract. So it basically gives the player the “legal right to welsh.” But I digress…

    …again, no rules were broken here so far as I can see. I suspect that had Fowler actually signed the deal the Orioles would justifiably be filing grievances further than the eye can see. So there’s really nothing the Birds can do except move on. However Fowler may well have violated a gentleman’s agreement of sorts, which in the view of many could be construed just as negatively.

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    I’m reminded of Mayor William Donald Schaefer claiming that he and former Colts’ owner Robert Irsay had a “gentleman’s agreement” in that if the latter was going to move the team, he’d call the Mayor and personally tell him. And as Mayor Schaefer later famously said, “…he didn’t call his old pal, Don.” Some might argue that shows the danger of gentleman’s agreements – and that’s a valid point. The opposite view is that it shows how sore people can be when a gentleman’s agreement is violated.

    For the record, to my knowledge nothing regarding the Orioles’ stringent physicals has come up in this whatsoever. Fowler’s only comment thus far has been that he decided to stay where he was comfortable. And in a way that’s understandable. However he also turned down a three-year deal worth $35 million in favor of just one year or $13 million. For his sake, I hope that he’s right about his abilities. 

    Next: Baltimore Orioles: Problems on Yovani Gallardo's physical

    Incidentally, he turned down Chicago’s qualifying offer…of $15 million also. So if he had just taken that he’d actually be up $2 million more than he is now. However again, while I’m sure this stings for some in the Orioles’ operation, the only thing they can do now is move on. That’s what’s best for the club.