An increase in spending by the Orioles during the offseason leads the imagination directly to the free agent and trade markets. However, the club has seven players eligible for arbitration. Raises are coming to most, if not all, of them.
Outfielder Anthony Santander leads the pack after making $3.15 million this year. He doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2024 season due to his status as a Super Two player.
Santander lost his arbitration hearing during his first year of eligibility and settled for $2.1 million instead of the $2.4 million that he sought. The sides agreed to a $3.15 million deal on Nov. 30, 2021.
MLBTradeRumors.com ran its annual salary projections yesterday and placed Santander’s at $7.5 million after he led the Orioles with 33 home runs, 89 RBIs, a .455 slugging percentage and a .773 OPS, tied Cedric Mullins for first with a .318 on-base percentage and ranked second in walks with 55 and in runs with 78. He played in a career-high 152 games.
The Orioles are building a surplus of outfielders, with Colton Cowser approaching his debut next summer. Kyle Stowers already arrived. Santander has drawn trade interest in the past and his value is at its highest, coming off his finest season and being under team control beyond 2023.
Moving Santander could aid in the search for starting pitching, but the Orioles already need another big bat in the lineup. Taking away Santander, while saving money that can be distributed elsewhere, creates a big hole.
That’s 30-plus power from both sides of the plate going out the door.
Also arbitration eligible are Mullins, outfielder Austin Hays, reliever Dillon Tate, shortstop Jorge Mateo, pitcher Austin Voth and catcher Cam Gallagher.
Mullins earned $716,500 this season and Trade Rumors used Matt Swartz’s model to project his upcoming salary at $4.4 million. That’s an Olympian jump.
Hays made $713,000 and also is in his first year of arbitration eligibility, with a projected raise of $3.1 million.
Tate and Mateo also join the first-timers club. Tate’s salary is projected to go from $711,500 to $1.5 million, and Mateo’s from $709,500 to $1.8 million.
They had career years and will be paid like it.
Voth avoided arbitration with the Nationals by signing for $875,000. His projected raise would increase his salary to $2 million, and the Orioles don’t know whether there’s room for him in the rotation.
The alternative would be a bulk-type relief role. The Orioles always need innings out of the bullpen, and Voth posted a 3.04 ERA with them in 22 appearances.
Voth is a perfect example of how the Orioles' pitching data and training can turn around a career, but is he worth around $2 million to them? That's one of their offseason decisions.
Gallagher signed for $885,000 in March to avoid arbitration with the Royals, and Trade Rumors sees a bump to $1 million. Gallagher will compete for a backup job if he stays in the organization.
Left-hander John Means signed a two-year, $5.925 million contract on May 21 to avoid the whole arbitration process. He’ll make $2.975 million next season.
Relievers Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Jorge López were traded, removing them from the Orioles’ arbitration list.
The Rays have 19 players eligible this winter, including former Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, and the Brewers have 18.
Note: Pitcher Anthony Castro, designated for assignment last week, cleared outright waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Castro was removed from the 40-man roster to create room for catcher Anthony Bemboom, the Orioles’ first roster move following the regular season.