I wrote earlier in the week about decisions pending on the arbitration-eligible players. MLBTradeRumors.com came out with their annual projections on raises, which will be referenced here multiple times in the coming months.
Jonathan Villar is expected to have his salary bumped from $2.55 million to $4.4 million after batting a combined .260/.325/.384 with 14 doubles, a triple, 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in 40 attempts over 141 games, the last 54 with the Orioles.
The Orioles will offer Villar a contract and also remain open to moving anyone in the right trade. He’s under team control through the 2020 season and they probably won’t be ready to contend. But his ability to get on base and swipe them brings special appeal as the Orioles try to move away from their station-to-station, all-or-nothing approach.
As Buck Showalter used to point out, he managed according to the personnel in the clubhouse. You can’t put runners in motion if they aren’t equipped to run. You can’t implement a small-ball mentality with a bunch of big, hairy guys who hit the ball where the grass doesn’t grow.
Villar and Cedric Mullins allow the next manager to operate differently. And the organization is trying to find more athletic players after years of being power junkies.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected that infielder Tim Beckham’s salary would jump from $3.35 million to $4.3 million, a reasonable sum if he were the starting shortstop or third baseman on a contender. He’s on a rebuilding club with no assurances that he’s reclaiming one of the positions.
Caleb Joseph is projected to earn $1.7 million after making $1.25 million this year. The catching situation in Baltimore is a bit of a mess, with Joseph’s uncertain status contributing to it.
The Orioles like their backup depth with Austin Wynns and Martin Cervenka, the latter re-signed to a minor league deal and playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. Chance Sisco isn’t ready to start and twice was optioned this summer. Joseph also was optioned while his struggles at the plate appeared to impact his work behind it, at least in the eyes of people in the organization who make these decisions.
If the Orioles non-tender Joseph and let him walk, they must decide whether someone from the remaining trio is worthy of handling the bulk of the catching or if they need to bring in a veteran via free agency or trade. Whether they need a more experienced hand guiding the younger starters.
The Orioles are hoping that they haven’t set back Sisco by rushing him to the majors this season. Having him break camp, as it turns out, wasn’t in his best interests and it made no sense to recall him 10 days after the first option.
Bringing back Sisco after such a short period, when he needed a reset in a less-pressurized environment, was one of the many examples of people in the organization not being on the same page. It was a point of contention, according to a source.
Triple-A Norfolk used seven catchers this summer, including Andrew Susac, who remains on the 40-man roster but is vulnerable because of a space crunch and his inability to stay healthy.
Susac ruffled feathers by packing up and heading home after fracturing his wrist, leading the Orioles to place him on the restricted list, but sweeping changes in the organization can provide a fresh start.
I’m more inclined to view Susac as a short-termer on the 40-man, but we’ll see how it plays out. In the meantime, the injuries make it hard to project him as a starting candidate.
Matt Wieters will hit the free agent market again. I’ll just toss it out there without actually thinking that a reunion is in the works.
Other catchers headed for free agency include Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, Martín Maldonado, Wilson Ramos, Renê Rivera, Kurt Suzuki and former Oriole Nick Hundley.
The Marlins could field trade offers for J.T. Realmuto, a favorite of former manager Buck Showalter.
The list of arbitration-eligible players for the Orioles includes Dylan Bundy, projected to make $3 million next season, reliever Mychal Givens at $2 million and utility player Jace Peterson at $1.3 million. The non-waiver deadline trades have made the anticipated raises more tolerable for a team slashing payroll.
The deals aren’t getting rave reviews within the industry based on the players obtained, though scouts and other talent evaluators tend to offer varying levels of praise for outfielder Yusniel Díaz, starter Dean Kremer, reliever Zach Pop and third baseman Jean Carlos Encarnacion. It’s always been more about shedding money still on the books - Jonathan Schoop is projected to earn $10.1 million and Kevin Gausman $9.2 million, and Darren O’Day is owed $9 million next season - picking up more international signing bonus slots and improving the depth in the farm system.
The Orioles should find out soon whether Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa has chosen them over the Marlins or whichever mystery team is in the mix. He’s been their primary focus, but they also like younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. and pitcher Sandy Gastón.
All three players are represented by agent Barry Praver of Magnus Sports. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he used to rep Sidney Ponson before switching agencies.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon to 2 p.m. on MASN.