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Former Orioles closer Tommy Hunter almost signed with Yankees, but failed physical

You know how everyone acts like only the Orioles fail people for physical issues? Other teams do it too. Former O's closer Tommy Hunter almost signed with the Yankees, the New York Post reported, except he failed his physical.

When the baseball media writes of contracts being completed "pending physical," the physical part is more or less usually a mere formality. The Orioles, because of about three rejections over the span of this century, have the reputation of being a team with a tough physical. They're not the only ones who have run into issues.

On Thursday, the New York Post's Joel Sherman reported that former Orioles closer Tommy Hunter had been on the verge of signing a two year, $12 million contract with the Yankees. However, the Yankees chose to back out from the contract for unspecified reasons. The fact that Hunter underwent core muscle surgery in the offseason may have had something to do with it, though Sherman suggests it's possible the Yankees did not like something to do with Hunter's arm.

It makes for an interesting sidebar for the Yankees offseason. They have not spent even a single dollar on a free agent contract. It wouldn't have been much less weird if Hunter had been their lone free agent signing, but whatever was on the physical kept them from doing anything at all.

Hunter ended up signing a one year contract for $2 million guaranteed with the Indians last week. Maybe they think Hunter's a risk over two years as well, or maybe they just took advantage of the market suddenly perceiving Hunter as damaged goods - although it remains to be seen how wide that perception might have been, since there was no news of the failed physical until now.

I won't be holding my breath waiting for the kinds of people who make jokes about the Orioles physical to start telling Yankees physical jokes. You shouldn't hold your breath either. It just goes to show that every team keeps an eye on this stuff.

And of course, the most recent instance of the Orioles backing out of a contract due to the physical also involved a reliever, as they were on the verge of signing Grant Balfour a couple of years ago before the physical scared them away. Many of the usual suspects took this as a "Peter Angelos is cheap" sign.

Balfour ultimately signed with the Rays and posted a 5 ERA over 71 games. He was so bad he had to be released early last year, the second year of the contract. Sounds to me like the Orioles physical revealed a pitcher who wasn't able to stay healthy enough to be effective. Maybe if the Rays had a better physical process they could have saved themselves $12 million.

It's too bad for Hunter, who deserved to get a decent little payday for himself and now will have to wait at least another year to get one. Maybe he will avoid whatever health pitfall the Yankees feared, post a solid season with Cleveland, and then hit the market again in a year and still get paid.