The sides exchanged figures last month, at which point the Orioles decided to “file to go” rather than make a serious attempt to negotiate a settlement. De Aza submitted $5.65 million and the Orioles countered at $5 million. He made $4.25 million last season.
I’ve heard that talks were limited despite a modest gap in proposals.
The Orioles haven’t gone to a hearing since Brad Bergesen lost in 2012. They’re 7-0 in cases led by general counsel H. Russell Smouse, and their only loss since Peter G. Angelos bought the team in 1993 came against Ben McDonald two years later.
The Orioles settled with 10 of their arbitration-eligible players, leaving De Aza as the only unsigned Oriole for 2015.
Asked why the Orioles are going to a hearing with De Aza, Duquette replied, “Because we made an offer to him and told him it was the best we were going to make to you. We made it before we exchanged figures. We told him if we have to exchange, we’re going to a hearing. It was a file to go. In other words, if you file, we’re going.”
De Aza batted .293/.341/.537 with five doubles, three triples, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 20 games after the Orioles acquired him from the White Sox on Aug. 30 for minor league pitchers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas. He hit .243/.309/.354 with 19 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 31 RBIs in 122 games with Chicago.
The Orioles were 14-6 in games that De Aza played.
“We made a good offer,” Duquette said. “I don’t know why it didn’t settle. I thought that would settle the case. I’m surprised it didn’t frankly.”
The Orioles discussed a two-year contract with De Aza earlier in the winter.
“We explored that a little bit,” Duquette said. “Now we’re focused on a one-year deal.”
De Aza projects as the starting left fielder and he could replace Nick Markakis in the leadoff spot. Going to a hearing carries the risk of creating hard feelings, but Duquette isn’t worried.
“No, I find the hearings to be instructive,” Duquette said. “It’s a 360 review of a player’s abilities.”
Manager Buck Showalter is pleased that the Orioles settled with 10 of the 11 and noted how there’s “such a fine line” in the process.
“You don’t want to alienate your players,” he said. “We love them and the last thing anybody wants to do is go. We’re going to have to go with one, I know. We’re fair and they’ve been fair and things get worked out, but there’s a toughness involved. Things have got to get done to continue operating on a competitive level.
“Being a dealmaker is not just paying more than anybody else. It’s relationships. Dealmakers are people who are fair. Once you make something not fair, then you’ve got to do it with everybody to be consistent with it.
“That whole process has been done very well by our group.”