Orioles must address six arbitration-eligible players by tonight's deadline (updated)

The Orioles have reached another deadline tonight, this one a few weeks earlier than the norm. They must tender contracts to their six arbitration-eligible players or risk going to hearings.

This is a day-long exercise for some media. Reporting the agreements, maybe the terms. Update after update, or just one lump summary.

The perceived importance needs to be balanced against the reality that these players are under team control. The Orioles are just setting the salaries.

Whether a player signs for $1.1 million or $1.2 million means little if you're not the one cutting the check. But I digress …

Outfielders Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitchers Dillon Tate and Austin Voth are getting raises under a system that pretty much assures them. The only way to avoid it is to non-tender.

Santander avoided arbitration in 2021 by signing for $3.1 million after losing in a hearing the previous year. He established multiple career highs, including 152 games played, 138 hits, 33 home runs, 89 RBIs, 55 walks and a .318 on-base percentage, and has become an important piece for the Orioles as they get out of their rebuild and slip into something more like a contender.

That importance is illustrated by Santander leading the club in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage (.455) and OPS (.773), and tying for first in OBP.

MLBTraderumors.com projected that Santander would be paid $7.5 million in 2023.

Mullins didn’t reach his 30/30 status from last summer, but Trade Rumors projected his salary to rise from $716,500 to $4.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

When the Orioles talk about increasing the payroll, these raises are an integral part of the conversation.

Mullins batted .258/.318/.403 with 32 doubles, four triples, 16 home runs, 64 RBIs and 34 stolen bases in 156 games, and he was a Gold Glove finalist among center fielders.

Hays stayed away from the injured list, though he played through some pain, especially in his wrist. He appeared in 145 games and slashed .250/.306/.413 with 35 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs and 60 RBIs.

There was a drop-off in the second half, with Hays batting .270/.325/.454 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs in 85 games before the All-Star break and .220/.276/.349 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 60 games after it.

Hays made $713,000 this year and, in his first year of arbitration, is projected to earn $3.1 million next season.

Mateo finally found a team that would give him an extended opportunity and he led the American League with 35 steals. He also was sensational at shortstop and won a Fielding Bible Award, though he was denied consideration for a Gold Glove.

Also entering arbitration for the first time, Mateo made $709,500 while batting .221/.267/.379 with 25 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs and 50 RBIs in 150 games. He crafted an impressive stretch of about two months, but fell into some bad habits again and hit .196/.235/.304 in September/October.

A raise to $1.8 million is cast by Trade Rumors.

Tate also is a first-timer in arbitration after the Orioles signed him for $711,500. Trade Rumors sets his salary at $1.5 million.

The right-hander led the club with 67 appearances and registered a 3.05 ERA and 0.991 WHIP in 73 2/3 innings. He also recorded five saves as a fill-in closer.

The most interesting case involves pitcher Austin Voth, a waiver claim on June 7 who had a 10.13 ERA and 2.143 WHIP in 19 relief appearances with the Nationals, and a 3.04 ERA and 1.229 WHIP in 22 games (17 starts) with the Orioles.

Voth isn’t assured of a rotation spot next year, with the factors including prospect promotions and outside acquisitions. The Orioles are in the market for a couple of veteran starters, including someone who can slot into the top third. Voth could be pushed to the ‘pen, where he’d bring value in bulk relief – if he’s on the club.

Trade Rumors projects Voth’s salary increasing from $875,000, which he agreed to in March to avoid arbitration, to $2 million.

The Orioles’ list of eligibles was whittled from nine, including the one-year deal for outfielder Jake Cave that they announced on Nov. 4.

Pre-arbitration players also are offered contracts.

The deadline for teams and players to submit their salary figures is Jan. 13. Hearings would be scheduled for March.

The Orioles are a file-and-go organization but have been known to maintain negotiations in certain instances.

The Orioles avoided arbitration with Trey Mancini in April by signing him to a one-year deal that included a $10 million mutual option for 2023. He was traded to the Astros on Aug. 1, and they declined the option.

Left-hander John Means also avoided a hearing by agreeing to a two-year, $5.925 million contract on May 21, the same day that catcher Adley Rutschman made his major league debut.

The hearing dates were pushed back due to the lockout and late start to spring training.

Means, who underwent Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to pitch on opening day, will have one year of arbitration eligibility remaining when his deal expires.

Santander and relievers Jorge López and Paul Fry reached agreement at last November’s deadline, and left-hander Tanner Scott also avoided a hearing by signing in March for $1.05 million. None of the three pitchers remain in the organization.  

* The Orioles haven't reached contract agreements with any free agents, but they're active in talks.

They've held conversations with representatives of multiple starting pitchers on the market, according to sources, and are lining up meetings between some players and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde.

The club also is busy trying to sign veteran left-handed corner outfield/first base/designated hitter bats to rotate and to pair with Ryan Mountcastle. The market is viewed as deep this year.

* Rutschman placed 12th in voting for Most Valuable Player in the American League. He received one fifth-place vote, one eighth, one ninth and three 10th.

The New York Post's Joel Sherman voted Rutschman fifth.

Aaron Judge finished first with 28 of 30 first-place votes, with the other two going to Shohei Ohtani.

Update: The Orioles announced that they tendered contracts to all six players, and every pre-arbitration eligible player on the 40-man roster.


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