LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — You may wonder why the Sox left it for J.D. Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, to announce they’d struck a deal with the free-agent right fielder, and why they also had nothing to say publicly about striking a deal with free-agent shortstop Julio Lugo. Let me tell you about Xavier Hernandez.
Xavier Hernandez was a relief pitcher and free agent in the winter of 1998. The Orioles announced that they’d signed him to a contract, but made no mention that his signing was contingent on Hernandez passing a physical.
Hernandez flunked his physical — tests showed a partial tear of his rotator cuff — and the Orioles tried to void the deal. Hernandez and his agent filed an appeal, arguing that the Orioles’ public announcement that he had been signed was the equivalent of a signing itself. An arbitrator agreed, and Hernandez was awarded $1.75 million, even though he never threw a pitch for Baltimore.
Ever since, teams have been gun-shy about announcing a deal pending a physical. Some teams are more gun-shy than others, like the current Sox regime, but they’re acting on the advice of MLB lawyers.