Orioles payroll to fall significantly in 2019 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles payroll to fall significantly in 2019

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).

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. bmorebirds

    January 11, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Yep, don’t need a fleet of Brink’s trucks since Camden Yards will be hosting “Baltimore’s Got Talent” auditions this year and next. Since we’ll be rooting for a steady stream of minor leaguers, sure would be nice if the Orioles charged Bowie Baysox admission prices till 2021.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 11, 2019 at 10:06 am

      bmorebirds, I wouldn’t bet on lowering ticket prices.


    January 11, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I totally agree with bmorebirds. If we’re not going to be watching expensive players, there is no reason not to drop ticket prices. I say that even though the Orioles have the most reasonable ticket prices in MLB. That is a major reason there are so many Yankee fans, Phillie fans, Red Sox fans and Mets fans at Camden Yards.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 11, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Danno, don’t bet on lowering ticket prices.


    January 11, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Both of you MUST be kidding! Lower ticket prices! HA! HA! HA! The O’s trading Gausman in a salary dump last summer with O’Day rather than keeping him or trying to trade him for better prospects showed the Angelos boys intentions long before Elias got here. We’ll see how much of
    the savings they “reinvest” in the team (minor leagues, scouts, front office, etc) and how much they put in their pockets. Peter Angelos was the devil we know. He was not a great owner but he was willing to spend. We do not know what the sons will do. And tanking is a great way to lower salary costs for several years.

    • bmorebirds

      January 11, 2019 at 10:06 am

      “Tanking” is also a great way to draw an average of 3,000 fans to Orioles home games. This ain’t Houston, Toto — there’s an MLB team 40 miles away that would love to eat Baltimore’s lunch. Anyway, the Bowie Baysox comment was tongue-in-cheek. Too many literalists around here, goodness!


        January 12, 2019 at 10:05 am

        I do not disagree with you. But Elias supposedly has full authority and Houston was one of the first teams to tank. And we don’t know how much the “boys” are willing to spend on payroll. I forsee a LOOOOONG rebuild being in the same division with the two Beasts of the East, an always well run Rays organization and Toronto which is supposed to have a top farm system.

  4. Orial

    January 11, 2019 at 10:57 am

    The key is not whether the payroll will be down in 2019 but whether will also be in the ensuing years. Will the payroll bounce back up as the talent improves or are we now entering a period of constant low payroll(Pitts,TB,Mia,Oak,KC). That concerns me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 11, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Orial, I don’t think the payroll will be consistently low. If you grow and keep good players, the payroll will be higher. The payroll will likely be low again next year, perhaps lower than this year as Cashner and Trumbo move on.

      As players mature, the payroll will increase, but I don’t see that happening for several years.


        January 12, 2019 at 10:07 am

        Nobody really knows what future payrolls will be with the “boys” in charge. You are guessing as much as Orial and I are.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      It’s my job to guess, but until the team gets a little better, I don’t think they’ll spend much, Victor.

  5. bmorebirds

    January 11, 2019 at 11:19 am

    I’m betting the dollars saved on payroll are being used to build up analytics and international scouting. Then when those areas are up to speed, payroll will creep back up. But if the Birds can kick butt with inexpensive, `no-name players,’ works for me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 11, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      That would be helpful, bmorebirds.

  6. Bob Horner

    January 11, 2019 at 11:42 am

    “Brach, Britton, Gausman, Machado, Schoop, Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph were eligible for arbitration.”
    Are you talking about last winter? Since Brach, Britton and Machado were eligible for free agency this winter.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 11, 2019 at 12:11 pm


      • Bob Horner

        January 11, 2019 at 12:57 pm

        Confusing cause you mention Beckham and Joseph nontendered in the next sentence, which is this year. But OK

  7. ClyOs

    January 11, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Just imagine what payroll would be if they could dump Davis and Trumbo. Think about it, if 2019’s estimates Opening Day payroll is $83 million and they make a combined $36.5 million those two players make up 44% of the Orioles payroll. You could justify that amount if their offensive output was something better than embarrassing.
    Combined 2018 stats
    800 AB, 165 HITS, 81 RUNS, 93 RBIs, 33 HRS, 85 WALKS, and an incredible 279 Ks

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:20 am

      Trumbo won’t be back in 2020, ClyOs.

      • ClyOs

        January 12, 2019 at 8:15 am

        Hopefully Trumbo will have a good start in 2019 and is traded at the deadline.

    • Bhoffman1

      January 12, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Sickeningly Davis contract, there should be a non performance clause in all these long term deals

  8. BirdsCaps

    January 11, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Why are the birds so focused on cutting payroll? Were the past few years that far out of ownership’s budget? International signings and infrastructure are expensive, though likely not as expensive as their expired contracts. This strategy is exemplified by the O’Day and Gausman deal. I would almost buy a few prospects by absorbing some of the big clubs (NY La Bos) bad contracts via a trade. However, the birds are going in the other direction.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:21 am

      They’re not focused on cutting payroll. They’re focused on building with younger players who are inherently cheaper, BirdsCaps.


        January 12, 2019 at 10:09 am

        Gausman was a salary dump to get rid of his and O’Day’s salaries. PERIOD! We did not get any of the Braves better prospects.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

      Elias didn’t make the Gausman trade, Victor. We’re not here to dissect moves before Elias. We’ve done plenty of that.


        January 15, 2019 at 9:31 am

        No but I’ll bet it was ordered by the Angelos boys. Which still makes me wonder what their real intentions are. Now the Billy Joel concert at Camden Yards. Do you want to bet they will sell naming rights to Camden Yards?

  9. willmiranda

    January 11, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Any reaction, Rich, from agents or the Players Union? They can’t be too happy with payroll slashes, no matter what the rationale is.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:21 am

      No, Will they’re not.

  10. jkneps63

    January 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Not sure Wynns is a plus defensively. His Defensive Runs Saved per year was -15 in 2018. Compared to -16 for Susac, -2 for Sisco, and -1 for Joseph. Team ERA was 5.18 in 2018, but 6.02 while Wynns was behind the plate. He looks a lot like Yogi Berra IMO, so maybe he will improve defensively but not sure he has been a plus defensively yet…

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:23 am

      Many people in the organization have been impressed with him, jkneps.

  11. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    January 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    As far as the free agent players that are still unsigned is not surprising. This growing trend is basic supply and demand. Many teams have found out the hard way – Orioles included. The use of long term contracts including overpaying for a player brings a big financial risk in many instances does not payoff. Teams are using their farm systems to develop players or through trades acquiring players that are cheaper alternatives. Why pay 4 or 5 million when you get similar results from a younger controllable player for less than a million. It just makes good business sense to do so.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:25 am

      Interesting thoughts, Grand Strand.

  12. cedar

    January 11, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Sorry to read this news about Rick Down. 63 is a young age to be passing on to the next.

    I am happy to see the additions afternoon games at the ballpark this year. There is nothing better than leaving work early and heading to the ballpark! I may make more games than I first thought!

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 12:24 am

      Cedar, Rick Down was 68, which is still too young. I hope to see you at the ballpark this season.

  13. Bhoffman1

    January 12, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Everything I see the 23 million going to going to Davis it puts a knot in my stomach. I hope he’s busting his lazy butt in Sarasota soon and Elias realizes a change of meds is needed if there will be any hope

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 12, 2019 at 6:01 pm

      I’ll pass along your warm wishes to Chris when I see him, Bhoffman.

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