The Orioles must reach agreement with their remaining arbitration-eligible players in exactly one week or the sides will exchange salary figures. Hearings will be scheduled between Feb. 3-21. Communication could be cut off until the date arrives.
It doesn’t appear that the Orioles have made any progress in signing outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, infielder Hanser Alberto or relievers Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro. Negotiations were put on hold during the Winter Meetings in San Diego and there’s nothing new to report.
Conversations tend to happen on the final morning, and the Orioles usually avoid the arbitration process. Reliever Brad Brach handed them a rare loss in February 2017, earning the $3.05 million he sought instead of the club’s $2.525 million offer.
Earlier in the month, catcher Caleb Joseph lost and had to settle for $700,000 instead of the $1 million that he sought.
The Orioles avoided the process the past two offseasons, reaching agreements in January 2019 with Givens, starter Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Villar as the early-afternoon deadline approached. They already had non-tendered Joseph and infielder Tim Beckham.
The organization is 11-2 in hearings since Peter Angelos became majority owner, the only other loss coming against pitcher Ben McDonald in 1995. They were 3-1 during Dan Duquette’s tenure as executive vice president of baseball operations, defeating Joseph, pitcher Brad Bergesen in 2012 and outfielder Alejandro De Aza in 2015.
General counsel H. Russell Smouse was 8-0 in hearings prior to his retirement. He didn’t handle any of the cases in 2017.
The Orioles exchanged figures with Jonathan Schoop in 2018 and the $1.5 million gap increased the possibility of a hearing, but the second baseman accepted an $8.5 million offer two days before the scheduled date.
Schoop filed at $9 million and the team countered at $7.5 million. He received a $5.025 million raise.
Pitcher Kevin Gausman agreed to terms on a $5.6 million contract one day before his hearing and the Orioles again managed to dodge a process that’s never pleasant.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has indicated that the Orioles won’t negotiate beyond next Friday’s deadline, taking the “file and trial” or “file and go” approach. Once the figures are exchanged, there’s nothing left to do beyond the hearing.
Asked in September about his philosophy regarding arbitration, he replied, “We’re file and go. Almost every team is now.”
Revisiting the topic a few months later, Elias said, “We want to finalize the contract prior to the arbitration process as soon as we can, so we’ll continue to have conversations up to the exchange deadline in January.”
Duquette made similar statements, but the Orioles kept negotiating. They may not be as flexible this year.
Their list has been whittled from seven to four, including the trades that sent Villar to the Marlins and Bundy to the Angels.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected that Villar would receive a raise to $10.4 million and that Bundy would be paid $5.7 million. They remain unsigned for 2020.
There was absolutely no way that the Orioles intended to pay Villar that sum. They placed him on waivers before making the trade.
The Orioles didn’t take long to reach an agreement with left-hander Richard Bleier, signing him on Dec. 2 for $915,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He made $572,500 last season.
Bleier is the only one in the group who’s under contract.
He could maintain that status and continue to fly solo until next Friday.