The Orioles entered Thursday with nine arbitration-eligible players about to exchange salary figures on Friday afternoon.
When the smoke cleared by early evening Friday, only three arbitration-eligible Orioles remained: pitchers Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach and catcher Caleb Joseph.
“The Orioles were pleased to agree on one-year deals with some of our best players and reward them for having good, solid years,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “(They) are core players and we will be looking (for them) to help our team again this season.”
Within a frenetic 24 hours, the Orioles signed six of their players to one-year deals – and, for the most part, significant raises: Manny Machado (from $5 million to $11.5 million), closer Zach Britton ($6.75 million to $11.4 million), starter Chris Tillman ($6.225 million to $10.05 million), second baseman Jonathan Schoop ($522,500 to $3.475 million), infielder Ryan Flaherty (1.5 million to $1.8 million) and reliever T.J. McFarland ($523,500 to $685,000).
That’s an increase of roughly $18.4 million for the six players’ salaries. And the total in arbitration raises will further increase once the other three cases are settled or an arbitration panel makes a decision in February.
Gausman, who had a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts, made $532,000 in 2016. He filed for a salary of $3.55 million while the Orioles countered with $3.15 million – a gap of $400,000.
Brach, who made the All-Star Game with a phenomenal first half and posted a 2.05 ERA in 71 games, made $1.25 million in 2016. He filed for $3.05 million while the Orioles filed at $2.525 million – a gap of $525,000.
Joseph, who played strong defense at catcher but hit just .174 with no homers or RBIs, made $523,500 last year. He filed at $1 million and the Orioles at $700,000. The $300,000 gap does not seem to be significant, but those are often the types of cases that are taken to a hearing since there is little financial risk to either side.
The Orioles typically don’t take multiple players to arbitration hearings, but there have been a few reports that they expect to employ the “file and trial” method this year: Exchange the numbers and then go to a hearing without further negotiation.
It would be a somewhat surprising philosophy since that has not been the style of the Orioles or Duquette in arbitration negotiations. However, the gaps in all three cases are relatively small, so the risk in going to trial is minimal.
The two sides, theoretically, can negotiate up until a hearing, when a three-person panel chooses one number or the other and that becomes the player’s salary for 2017. The Orioles are exceptional at building their arbitration case; they are 10-1 since attorney Peter Angelos became majority owner of the club in 1993. The lone loss involved pitcher Ben McDonald in 1995.
The Orioles last went to a hearing in 2015 with outfielder Alejandro De Aza – they won that decision.