“Mutual interest” in Tillman extension, and other notes

With so much attention placed on the Orioles’ attempts to craft their roster for the upcoming season, it’s easy to forget that they need to give raises to their 11 arbitration-eligible players.

Players can file for arbitration on Jan. 13, and the sides exchange salary figures three days later. Hearings take place between Feb. 1-21 if agreements aren’t reached.

Here’s the list of the Orioles’ 11 arbitration-eligible players with their salaries last season and MLBTradeRumors.com’s projections for 2015.

Alejandro De Aza: $4.25 million/$5.9 million
Matt Wieters: $7.7 million/$7.9 million
Steve Pearce: $700,000/$2.2 million
Bud Norris: $5.3 million/$8.7 million
Tommy Hunter: $3 million/$4.4 million
Chris Davis: $10.3 million/$11.8 million
Brian Matusz: $2.4 million/$2.7 million
Chris Tillman: $546,000/$5.4 million
Miguel Gonzalez: $529,000/$3.7 million
Ryan Flaherty: $513,000/$1 million
Zach Britton: $521,500/$3.2 million

The Orioles tendered contracts to each player, but that doesn’t guarantee a roster spot on opening day. For instance, Matusz’s name has come up in trade discussions this winter.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette said he hasn’t negotiated new deals with any of the players, noting that he still has a few weeks before figures are exchanged.

tillman-pitching-black-alcs.jpgTillman can’t become a free agent until 2018, but Duquette said there’s “mutual interest” in working out a contract extension.

“There are a few candidates for that,” Duquette added. “We haven’t spent much time on that, but contract discussion is always a good time to explore that.”

Tillman, who’s first-year arbitration-eligible, has gone 29-13 over the past two seasons and twice exceeded 200 innings. He lowered his ERA from 3.71 in 33 starts in 2013 to 3.34 in 34 starts last year. He’s the undisputed No. 1 starter on this team, pitching on opening day and Game 1 of the American League Division Series and Championship Series.

Tillman is getting the ball again on April 6. The Orioles aren’t signing Max Scherzer.

As for the Orioles’ continuing search for a left-handed hitting outfielder, fans keep asking why the club isn’t going after Nori Aoki.

All I can say is the Orioles hold some interest, but are more focused on Colby Rasmus. I agree that Aoki’s career .353 on-base percentage would be an asset. Maybe Aoki is seeking more than the Orioles are willing to give. Maybe it’s something else. I haven’t been given specific reasons. I just know that he rates below Rasmus.

I also was asked again about a possible reunion with Nate McLouth. I wrote on Dec. 12 that the Orioles had discussed McLouth, but they were waiting to see whether the Nationals released him. I also heard that the Nats would be willing to eat some salary to consummate a deal. McLouth is owed $5 million this year.

Losing Monica Barlow to lung cancer made it impossible for me to hold any warm feelings for 2014.

My most memorable moment from the Orioles’ season involved her. Britton walked over to me in the clubhouse with two beers in his hand following the division-clinching win, passed one to me and said, “This is for Monica.” We tapped bottles to toast her, and I needed a sip just to get rid of the lump in my throat.

The year couldn’t end quickly enough for me. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Monica continues to impact lives. Her family is in the process of establishing an endowment in her name through Rockingham County Public Schools with the earnings used to award grants in the area of student literacy.

If you’re interested in making a donation to the Monica Pence Barlow Fund, the address is:

Edward Smith, Executive Director
Rockingham Educational Foundation, Inc.
100 Mt. Clinton Pike
Harrisonburg, Va. 22802

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