I wanted to pass along more quotes from Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette, who confirmed this afternoon that the club would not sign closer Grant Balfour.
The two sides had reached agreement earlier this week on a two-year, $15 million contract, but the Orioles weren’t comfortable with the results of his physical.
“Our scouts evaluate a player’s skill and ability and capability to help the team, but our medical staff’s evaluation also is a vital part of the process, especially when you’re going to make a significant financial investment in an Orioles player,” Duquette said. “If we do our job right, we align those interactions consistently so we can sign players who are available to contribute to the team for the entire term of their contract. I guess the good news is there are other opportunities that we’re looking at as we try to improve the ballclub. But in this situation, the deal is not coming together.
“I think from the Orioles’ perspective, we’re going to look at some of our other options and turn our attention elsewhere. This conversation we had did not result in adding a player to the ballclub. Like I said, we’re going to turn our attention somewhere else right now. That’s from the Orioles perspective.”
Duquette can’t offer specifics, saying with these medical issues, “you have to protect confidentiality.”
“The only thing I can tell you is the club was not satisfied with the results and we’re not going to get into particulars of what the specific club’s concerns were. I can tell you that players go through a very, very thorough screening and our medical people are thorough and they gave their evaluation. I can also tell you that these processes and these opinions vary from club to club and doctor to doctor, so that’s really what I can say about the situation.”
In other words, another team will clear Balfour medically and sign him for the 2014 season. It’s just a matter of how his agreement will compare to the one reached with the Orioles.
“The Orioles made a choice, and like I said, we’re going to turn our energy to singing some other ballplayers right now,” Duquette said.
Duquette didn’t offer a clear answer when asked whether Balfour also considered the matter closed.
“The Orioles are moving on from the situation,” he said. “There was no contract. There was an understanding pending a physical exam, so there’s no contract here for the team.”
So, what’s next in the search for Jim Johnson’s replacement?
“We’re going to look at both trades and free agent signings,” Duquette said. “There are still a few pitchers on the board who can help us and a few who could certainly help our bullpen.
“I want to point out that most of these closers, like Jim Johnson two years ago, they come to the team as reliable bullpen pitchers, and then the manager sees how they can handle the responsibility when given more at the end of the game. That’s how these things work. If you have reliable pitchers in the bullpen, I’m sure somebody can close out games.
“Two years ago, we needed a closer and found someone in the bullpen. Who knows? That could happen again.”
Duquette said he’s still looking to add another starter, as well as a bullpen arm.
“I’m sure that we can add additional pitchers to the team between now and when we open,” he said.
“We’d love to do that. That’s been on our shopping list since the start of the offseason. We’d love to be able to check those boxes off.
“I think having good depth to our pitching staff is a real priority. We’ll continue to look at signing players we think will be good and helpful to the team.”
Asked to assess his offseason, Duquette mentioned the recent trade for outfielder David Lough as “a good addition to our ballclub.”
“He fills a need for us in the outfield. He’s got a chance to be an everyday ballplayer for us and a really good defender. I think he was a real strong addition. And I like the pitchers we signed. And we’re not done yet. We hope to add another hitter and some pitchers, and we’ll keep working on that so we can maintain the high level of competitiveness that we’ve had the last couple of years.”
A rough day for Duquette included official word that left-hander Troy Patton would be suspended the first 25 games of the 2014 season after testing positive for an amphetamine in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
“We were disappointed to learn of Troy Patton’s suspension, which we were informed of today,” Duquette said. “The Orioles support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from the game. This is a 25-game suspension and Tory is placed on the restricted list.”
Duquette listed the candidates to replace Patton as the second left-hander in the bullpen.
“We’ve got some depth to our left-handed relief,” he said. “I like the addition of Chris Jones to the roster. Zach Britton may get an audition in left-handed relief in spring training. We still have T.J. McFarland, Mike Belfiore, and the addition of a good arm in Kelvin De La Cruz gives us a little bit of depth there. We can take a look at those left-handed pitchers for the second left-hander in the bullpen.
“Brian (Matusz), of course, is our left-on-left pitcher and he’s been very reliable, so we have some good candidates for that second left-hander in the bullpen.”
Update: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reached Balfour by phone and tweeted the following:
1. Grant Balfour is mystified by #Orioles backing out of deal because of health concerns, tells me he is “100 percent fine.”
2. Balfour tells me his MRIs, incl R shoulder, are the exact same as they were three years ago. “I’m the All-Star pitcher I was last season.”
3. More Balfour: “My shoulder is fine, everything is fine. I’m ready to come out there in the ninth inning, do what I do.”
4. Balfour says he doesn’t want to bad-mouth anyone, says of the #Orioles, “I guess they chose to go another route.”
Update II: One of Balfour’s agents, Seth Levinson, issued the following statement:
“Grant is completely healthy and that was told to us today by Dr. Koco Eaton, a well-respected club physician. Dr. Eaton’s opinion is based upon the fact that the MRI which was taken today is the same as the MRI which was taken in 2011 as a condition of the 3-year contract that Grant signed with the A’s. Dr. Tim Kremchek, 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 post season 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.”
Naturally, Balfour’s representatives are making certain that other teams don’t view him as damaged goods. He’s back on the market.
The Orioles aren’t going to comment on the statement.
Eaton, you may recall, drew the ire of manager Buck Showalter by offering an on-field diagnosis of Manny Machado after the third baseman injured his knee at Tropicana Field.