The Orioles have tendered nine of their 10 arbitration-eligible players, announcing before Friday’s deadline that the only one who wouldn’t get a contract for 2017 is right-handed swingman Vance Worley.
Worley, who made $2.6 million last year while compiling a 3.53 ERA in 35 games (four starts), likely would have made more than $3 million in arbitration. The Orioles deemed that to be too expensive for the long reliever role, especially after the club acquired Logan Verrett from the New York Mets for cash considerations this week.
Worley, 29, is now free to sign with any club. In seven major league seasons – with the Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Orioles – Worley is 33-30 with a 3.75 ERA in 139 games (85 starts). The Orioles claimed Worley off waivers from the Pirates in October, 2015.
“The O’s appreciate Vance Worley’s contributions to our 2016 club,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said via text.
Cutting ties with Worley wasn’t a surprise – especially after acquiring Verrett – but tendering contracts to all of the other nine players was mildly unexpected given the club’s soaring payroll due to anticipated salary increases. Without purchasing any major free agents, the Orioles are looking at a record payroll likely surpassing $150 million in 2017.
Six of the players that are arb-eligible are considered core members of the 2017 team: Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach. A seventh, Caleb Joseph, is currently penciled in as the club’s starting catcher.
The other two, however, were clearly on the bubble: utility infielder Ryan Flaherty and lefty reliever T.J. McFarland – both former Rule 5 picks who have never played in the majors with any team besides the Orioles.
The 30-year-old Flaherty, who made $1.5 million last year, hit just .217 in 176 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2016. But he played every defensive position besides catcher and center field and he even pitched one inning. His versatility allowed manager Buck Showalter and Duquette to dip to three bench players at times last year. Flaherty is projected to make $1.7 million in 2017, according to mlbtraderumors.com
The 27-year-old McFarland, who dealt with injuries last season and compiled a 6.93 ERA in 16 games, also has served as the club’s swingman in the past. He has a 4.27 career ERA in four seasons with the Orioles. He made $523,500 last year and is projected to make $700,000 for 2017, according to mlbtraderumors.com.
The Orioles made another move Friday, claiming outfielder/designated hitter Adam Walker from the Milwaukee Brewers and adding him to the 40-man roster. Walker, 25, is a former third-round pick of the Minnesota Twins who has yet to play in the major leagues. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander hit 27 homers and struck out 202 times for Minnesota’s Triple-A club last year.
The Orioles’ 40-man roster is now at 36 players.