SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Thursday the O's made a sincere effort to sign free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler, who earlier in the day agreed to a deal with the Cubs.
"I'm not sure what that statement is about," Duquette said, referring to a statement issued by Fowler's agent, Casey Close, through Excel Sports on Thursday night. "Because his job is to represent his player. If a player chooses to take less money to go to another team, that's their choice."
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Duquette reiterated that the Orioles did not have an official agreement in place with Fowler, as that would obviously require a physical and signature. But the expectation from the moment that news of a potential agreement broke Tuesday was that Fowler, who told reporters on Thursday he had a three-year offer on the table, was headed to the Grapefruit League. O's All-Star Adam Jones said Wednesday he had spoken to Fowler, and Fowler was "excited" and "should be on his way" to Florida.
Close said in the statement that he had never "witnessed such irresponsible behavior on so many fronts." When asked if he felt like Close was taking a shot at the Baltimore front office, Duquette said he didn't see it that way.
"What's he going to say now?" Duquette said of Close advising Fowler to take less money and years with the Cubs. "That it's not about the money?"
Fowler will make $8 million this season and has a $9 million mutual option for 2017, with a $5 million buyout if the option is declined. A source told MLB.com that Baltimore had offered him three years and $33 million, though the club never officially confirmed those numbers.
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"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," Close's statement read. "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."
Fowler would have fit in nicely as the Orioles' right fielder. Barring another deal, Spring Training will feature auditions for the job, with Dariel Alvarez, Jimmy Paredes, Nolan Reimold, Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo and Henry Urrutia in the mix.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.