Right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo and the Baltimore Orioles have yet to officially finalize a three-year, $35 million dollar contract that was mutually agreed upon on Saturday. It was reported earlier today that the Orioles had concerns with the results of his physical, and after this was reported, many speculated that it was his shoulder.
As it turns out, all that speculation was correct. Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun confirmed earlier tonight that Baltimore’s concern is in fact Gallardo’s shoulder.
At first glance, this news came as quite of a shock. The former Milwaukee Brewers ace who pitched for the Rangers last season has been one of the most durable starters in the majors since 2009. Gallardo has made at least 30 starts for seven consecutive seasons, and has pitched at least 180 innings every year during that span, including back-to-back seasons of 200-plus innings in 2011 and 2012. According to FanGraphs, Gallardo’s 1339.1 innings pitcher since 2009 ranks 14th among all starters in baseball.
Gallardo made 33 starts for the Texas Rangers last season, going 13-11 in 184.1 innings pitched with a 3.42 ERA and a 4.00 FIP. Gallardo rejected the Rangers’ qualifying offer in November, meaning that any team that signs him would have to give up a draft pick (their first pick unless it is one of the first ten picks). For this reason, the Orioles are being cautious, though a deal is “far from dead.”
The Orioles have always been known as a team that makes deals late in the offseason, often during spring training, and at the same time they have a reputation for being a team that will call off deals because of health concerns.
On the surface it’s hard to see why the Orioles would be concerned in this case. As mentioned above, Gallardo has been consistent and durable throughout his career, and on top of that he hasn’t had any history with shoulder problems, or any other health problems for that matter.
However, after digging a little deeper beyond his peripherals, one trend seems to legitimize Baltimore’s concerns.
As this chart shows, Gallardo’s fastball velocity dipped to a career low of 90.4 by the end of 2015, and his strikeout rate also declined for the sixth consecutive season. While the Orioles need starters, giving up a valuable draft pick to sign a guy with a lot of innings on his pitching arm like Gallardo might not be worth it for what will likely be three years of decline.