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Why don't teams give physicals to the players for whom they trade?

Jun 18, 2010, 9:06 AM EDT

You'd have a mechanic look at a used car, so why wouldn't you have your doctors look at a used player?

We talked about this some in the offseason when J.J. Putz revealed that the Mets didn’t look at his bone spurs after trading for him last year, but here it is again: a team that didn’t give a physical to a player with an injury history at the time they traded for him.

The team is the Pirates. The player was Aki Iwamura, whom the Pirates snagged from the Rays last year.  Iwamura had previously undergone major knee surgery.  You’d think such a thing would be the primary issue in the trade. If Iwamura was healthy, he could be a serviceable player for the Pirates.  If not, you have given up a player of your own for a valueless guy.

But the Pirates didn’t check. According to team President Frank Coonelly the team didn’t even ask for a physical. Instead, they relied on scouting reports.  Of course, Iwamura was just DFA’d because he’s been awful, and he’s been awful in large part because his knee still bothers him immensely. Maybe they need to give their scouts portable MRI machines.

Coonelly says it’s uncommon for teams to request physicals for players for whom they trade.  Why?  Especially when the trade involves players coming off major surgery.  Free agent signings are usually accompanied by physicals, so why not trades? This isn’t a timing thing either, as Iwamura was traded during the offseason. There is no reason why doctors couldn’t have taken a gander at his knee.

Sometimes I accuse baseball teams of being pennywise and pound foolish. Not checking out the players you trade for isn’t even pennywise. What gives? 

  1. Old Gator - Jun 18, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Because ballplayers smell bad when you take off enough of their clothes to get close to them with a stethoscope?

  2. BC - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    I’d figure that sometimes teams can get a bargain in a trade if they blow off the physical. The Pirates clearly got burned on this one though.

  3. JBerardi - Jun 18, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    Yeah, “Hey, you can have this guy for peanuts just as long as you don’t even look at his knee” sounds like a great deal to me.

  4. Matthew Middleton - Jun 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Actually, if I remember correctly, this was a timing thing. The way Aki’s contract was structured the Rays had a deadline to trade him or he would become a free agent. The Pirates didn’t feel that they could sign him if he became a free agent, and the Rays didn’t want to loose him and not get a return, so they jumped on the trade before that deadline. Other than that, I completely agree with the physical before a trade, I’m kind of dumbfounded that they don’t insist on it. I will say that in Aki’s case, I think a lot of his inability to play this year was more a mental thing, not wanting to do more damage to his knee, you could tell he was hesitant to go all out on it.

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