Earlier in the week, it was reported that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler had come to terms with the Baltimore Orioles on a three-year contract. Baltimore players had expressed their excitement about the prospect of Fowler joining the team, with star outfielder Adam Jones quoted as saying, “I spoke to him. He’s excited. He should be on his way here now.” That’s why it was stunning to here this morning that no such agreement was in place, as Fowler wound up going back to his former team, the Chicago Cubs on a one year, $8 million deal with a mutual option for 2017 worth $9 million.

Baltimore executives denied that an agreement had been reached, or that they were even close to one, as the main hangup in negotiations had been that Fowler wanted an opt-out clause after the first year, and the Orioles have been staunch opponents of opt-out clauses for the duration of this offseason. While at a press conference to announce the signing of Yovani Gallardo, Orioles general manager Dan Duqette was quoted as saying, “We made a very competitive offer. There was not an agreement to terms because they kept insisting on an opt-out. I don’t see, club ownership doesn’t see the value in that type of arrangement to the Orioles. If we are going to guarantee a contract, it should be a contract.”

Fowler’s agent Casey Close addressed the reports and made his outrage known at the incorrect reporting and the possibility of erroneous accounts stemming from the Baltimore front office: “In my 25 years in this business, never before have I witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts. Both the Orioles front office and members of the media were so busy recklessly spreading rumors that they forgot or simply chose not to concern themselves with the truth. The Orioles’ willful disregard of collectively bargained rules governing free agency and the media’s eager complicity in helping the Orioles violate those rules are reprehensible. Dexter Fowler never reached agreement with the Orioles and did not come close to signing with the club; any suggestion otherwise is only a continuation of an already disturbing trend.”

Close’s clients have been the driving force behind opt-out clauses in recent years, with Zach Greinke, Masahiro Tanaka, Clayton Kershaw and Jason Heyward all receiving the clauses while being represented by Close’s Excel Sports Management. What is surprising is that an unknown member of the Orioles front office would leak that a deal is done, while it is now apparent that the deal-breaking opt-out clause was ever-present in negotiations.

The addition of Fowler will give the Cubs plenty of outfield flexibility. They could opt to move Jason Heyward to his natural position of right field. Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber may share left field or another arrangement could be reached. Given that Fowler isn’t viewed as a positive defensive center fielder, it’s possible Heyward will remain penciled in up the middle. The club now has a wealth of outfield depth with Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez also in the mix for reps.

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