The Orioles’ payroll will be substantially lower in 2019 than it was last year, and there are fewer players eligible for arbitration. Only Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens and Jonathan Villar are eligible.
A year ago, seven players, all of whom are no longer with the team, were eligible for arbitration, and none ended up in arbitration hearings.
This season, it might be different. Many clubs are refusing to negotiate after today’s 1 p.m. deadline for exchanging figures. If players don’t sign by then, their 2019 salary will be decided in arbitration.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Bundy is likely to earn $3 million in arbitration, Givens $2 million and Villar, who is in his second season of arbitration eligibility, $4.4 million.
A year ago, the Orioles’ Opening Day payroll was $148.57 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. MLBTradeRumors.com estimates that this year’s Opening Day payroll will be just under $83 million.
Gone are Adam Jones ($17.3 million), Manny Machado ($16 million), Zach Britton ($12 million) and Darren O’Day ($9 million). Jones was on the final year of a six-year contract. O’Day has a year remaining on a four-year deal, and Machado and Britton were in the final years of club control.
Brad Brach ($5.16 million), Kevin Gausman ($5.6 million) and Jonathan Schoop ($8.5 million) were also dealt.
Brach, Britton, Gausman, Machado, Schoop, Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph were eligible for arbitration. Beckham, who signed with Seattle on Thursday, and Joseph were non-tendered by the club Nov. 30.
Even though general manager Mike Elias has a relatively light load for arbitration (his former team, the Houston Astros has 10 arbitration-eligible players), his work constructing the 2019 Orioles is hardly over.
The team has commitments to only Chris Davis, who will earn $23 million in the fourth year of a seven-year contract, and Alex Cobb, $14 million in the second year of a four-year deal, beyond this season.
Mark Trumbo ($13.5 million) and Andrew Cashner ($9.5 million) can become free agents after this season.
Elias acknowledged at the Winter Meetings that the team would not be hasty in signing free agents. It has yet to sign a major league free agent. This week, the team reportedly signed catcher Carlos Perez and pitcher Gregory Infante, both of whom have significant major league experience, to minor league contracts.
Perez’s signing has drawn praise from an industry source, who says that his defensive skills are one of the “top three” he’d seen among minor league catchers. The source said that Perez’s defense combined with that of Austin Wynns could give the Orioles outstanding defense behind the plate.
Perez, who played in the Astros’ organization from 2012-14 when Elias was there, was with the Angels, Rangers and Braves from 2015-18. He’s thrown out 38 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.
While the Orioles’ slowness in signing free agents might be sound business strategy, it’s part of an overall trend that’s disturbed players, agents and fans.
Players want to make plans for the upcoming season. Agents want to place their players, and fans want an earlier glimpse of what their team might look like in 2019.
In the past two offseasons, clubs have waited until January or February, and in the case of Cobb, March, to sign free agents, hoping to make better deals.
There’s a glut of players on the market, including a host of former Orioles. Brach, Jones, Joseph, Nick Markakis and longtime catcher Matt Wieters, who spent the last two seasons with the Washington Nationals, are looking for a 2019 team.
Machado has found the market to be less active than he hoped and is reportedly sifting through offers from the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.
During the Winter Meetings, Elias’ counterpart with the Boston Red Sox, Dave Dombromski, suggested a deadline for transactions. If there were a moratorium on trades and signings between the end of the Winter Meetings and spring training, perhaps there would be more action earlier in the offseason.
Twenty of MLBTradeRumors’ Top 50 free agents are unsigned. including Machado, Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock and Marwin Gonzalez, all of whom are in the top 16.
Several should sign shortly, and while it may seem like good business to wait for lower prices, it doesn’t help clubs sell tickets.
Down dies at 68
Rick Down, who was the Orioles’ hitting coach when they made back-to-back postseason appearances, died at 68 after a lengthy illness in Las Vegas last weekend.
Down coached for Davey Johnson in 1996, when the Orioles hit a team-record 257 home runs, and 1997 when they came within two games of the World Series. He also coached for the team in 1998.
He had two iterations with the New York Yankees, the first under Buck Showalter, and also coached with the Mets, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers.
MLB sets game times
The Orioles will open their season at Yankee Stadium on March 28 at 1:05 p.m. Each of their three games with the Yankees will start at 1:05.
Opening Day in Baltimore is April 4, also against New York, and it will begin at 3:05 p.m. Weeknight games again begin at 7:05 p.m., and Sunday games at 1:05 p.m.
Afternoon games will be played on April 11 (12:35), May 11 (4:05), May 23 (12:35), May 27 (1:05), June 1 and 15 (4:05), June 26 (12:35) and June 29 (4:05).