Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins may well be a player driven and motivated this year by what happened last year.
And I don’t mean how the Orioles’ season ended against Texas. But how his season ended and went at times – he was on the injured list twice during the year. After missing nine games total in the 2021-22 seasons, he was limited to 116 games in ’23.
Mullins hit just .198 last September and then was 0-for-12 in the AL Division Series.
During Birdland Caravan, O’s first base and outfielders coach Anthony Sanders talked about Mullins late-season struggles. In the end was he just too banged up to play?
“We as a staff, we know the vibe of the players,” said Sanders. “We know the bumps and bruises they have. You have to trust in those guys that are professionals. Even though Ced’s bat didn’t probably show up, he still brought another element to the game that this team relies on. He’s a leader of this team and I would not have done it any different way.”
Sanders has talked to Mullins several times this winter and Mullins told reporters over the weekend he is fully healthy now.
“I think he’s good to go," Sanders confirmed. "They had a little girl in the offseason, he’s a new dad, so he will come to spring training with some new priorities as any first-time father realizes. You start looking at life a bit differently. We’ll probably see another gear from him.”
After producing the only 30-30 season (homers and steals) in O’s history in 2021 and producing an OPS of .878, Mullins’ OPS was .721 in both 2022 and 2023.
Mullins will no doubt have the drive this year to show he can top those numbers.
“Ced is a pro and has been doing this for a long time. Ced is probably one of the underdogs in the game. Always has something to prove and that is just his mentality and I’m sure it will show up," Sanders said.
Coulombe’s new deal: When the Orioles agreed to a 2024 contract with lefty reliever Danny Coulombe avoiding an arbitration hearing on Monday, we learned his salary would be $2.3 million for the coming season. When the O’s tendered him a contract earlier, we knew he would be back this year, it was just a matter of getting to that final number for the season and this week the sides did.
But the Orioles also secured a team option for the 2025 season which gave them the potential to keep Coulombe on the team next season and away from free agency.
The Orioles would have to pay him at least $4 million to pick up the club option, which comes without a buyout. The option price increases for appearances he reaches this season past 50 and could go up to $4.925 million.
Coulombe, acquired from Minnesota late last March, had a very solid season for the Orioles and was a key member of the 'pen. He went 5-3 with a 2.81 ERA. In 51 1/3 innings he posted a 1.110 WHIP with a 2.1 walk and 10.2 strikeout rate. He allowed a .231 batting average and .605 OPS and was good against both left and righty batters. His 5.7 walk percentage and 27.6 K percentage were both the second-best of his career. He allowed an OPS of .627 to lefty batters and .618 to right-handers.
Even though he could more than double his 2025 salary by making those appearances this year, that dollar amount could still be quite reasonable for what he can bring.
Just this offseason, 15 relievers have signed contracts that call for an average annual value of at least $8 million dollars.
If Coulombe pitches this year to the level of last season, the O’s will want him back and that price will seem fine. Getting the club option was a good move by the Orioles. They are not on the hook for that money for next season unless they pick up the option to keep the lefty in the bullpen for another season.