Almost time for Orioles to tender contracts

The last gasp from the Orioles front office before the air is potentially squeezed out of the offseason comes on Tuesday with the deadline for tendering contracts to players eligible for arbitration.

The date was moved up a couple of days with the threat of a shutdown due to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Orioles had eight eligible players before outrighting catcher Pedro Severino and infielder Pat Valaika, sending them into free agency. Severino, projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to receive $3.1 million in arbitration, signed a $1.9 million contract with the Brewers. Valaika, projected to receive $1.3 million, remains unsigned.

orioles-fans-kids-pumped.jpgDecisions are pending on Trey Mancini ($7.9 million), Anthony Santander ($3.7 million), John Means ($3.1 million), Jorge López ($1.5 million), Paul Fry ($1.1 million) and Tanner Scott ($1 million).

A few of them don’t require any thought.

Mancini eventually could be traded if there isn’t an agreement reached or any negotiations on an extension. Those seem to be the two choices, perhaps with more urgency to move Mancini at the deadline, when he’s a half-season rental before free agency.

A non-tender candidate? Don’t be foolish.

Teams are checking on Means’ availability - perhaps you’ve heard - but it would take an overwhelming offer to trade him. He’s the No. 1 starter on a staff that runs short on experience and production. He’s poised to earn his first significant raise after making $593,500 this summer.

The rebuild shouldn’t preclude the Orioles from moving into the $3 million range with their ace. What must be done is bringing in a veteran or three to compete for spots behind him.

Scott’s projected salary is reasonable for a lefty power arm in the back end of the bullpen. The stuff is too good to cut loose and his periods of utter dominance keep the Orioles glued to him.

Sure, he averaged 6.2 walks per nine innings and posted a 10.80 ERA in his last 20 appearances before going on the injured list Sept. 14 with a left knee sprain, the same injury that sidelined him Aug. 1. Yes, he finished with a 5.17 ERA and 1.574 WHIP in 62 appearances, allowing six runs and retiring only one Blue Jays batter in his final game. But Scott had a 2.65 ERA and .180 average against on July 18 and he averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

The knee can’t be dismissed. It had to factor into his struggles. And that fastball/slider combo and ability to record strikeouts in key situations make him worth $1 million.

Fry also failed to finish the season on the active roster, but he was optioned Aug. 29 and didn’t return. The ground beneath his spikes is a bit shakier, but he was really good during the truncated 2020 season and registered a 1.78 ERA in his first 26 appearances this year, briefly serving as closer.

Fry had a 11.05 ERA over the next 26 outings, losing all three decisions against the Rays while posting a 34.71 ERA. It was 2.98 against everyone else.

We can work with that. Consider it a fluke or limit his exposure to them.

“Either they knew me better than I knew myself or it was just kind of ... I don’t know. They had something on me, I guess I would say,” Fry said in an October interview with MASNsports.com.

“It was like 10 games in August that we faced them. Tanner and I have faced them a lot every year. I would say it’s 10 appearances against them a year, so you see the same guys, they see you. Sometimes they have something, whether it’s a glove tip or something like that, and I think maybe I was doing that. I don’t know.”

Manager Brandon Hyde really likes López as a multipurpose reliever, though, at least publicly, he won’t dismiss the right-hander’s chances to be a starter again. López seemed more comfortable working out of the bullpen after his removal from the rotation, with more limited exposure to hitters. And with that plus-fastball that can be a weapon late in games or for middle-inning coverage.

López is a non-tender candidate for sure, with the possibility of having a new contract negotiated, but the Orioles can come up with reasons why he brings value to a bullpen that posted a 5.70 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

Santander was never right after spraining his ankle in April and his numbers tumbled - .241/.286/.433 in 110 games - leaving him far short of the player who was voted Most Valuable Oriole in 2020. Durability remains an issue, but the tools intrigue and no one is pushing him out of right field.

The prospects are coming. Until then, the Orioles can explore the trade market again and hold onto him if the return doesn’t suit them.

There isn’t much more time to do it before having to decide whether to offer him a contract.

A non-tender among this group would clear space on a full 40-man roster.

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