The next two days promise to be busy ones for the Orioles. Because of the likelihood of a lockout beginning on Thursday, the players and owners agreed to move up the deadline for tendering contracts from Thursday to Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The Orioles have six players eligible for arbitration: first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini, starter John Means, outfielder Anthony Santander, left-handed relievers Paul Fry and Tanner Scott, and right-hander Jorge López.
Last Wednesday, the Orioles filled the 40-man roster by claiming left-handed reliever Cionel Pérez on waivers from Houston.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Orioles decided to trade or not tender Fry, who had a rocky August and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on August 29th and not recalled.
The Orioles would like to have at least two openings on the 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft, which is still scheduled for December 8th.
There’s a possibility that any of the six arbitration-eligible players could be traded or perhaps signed before the deadline as the Orioles did with catcher Pedro Severino and infielder Pat Valaika, avoiding the arbitration process.
Mullins trade speculation: On Friday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the Orioles would listen to trade offers for centerfielder Cedric Mullins, who became the first player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season.
Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the team was “dangling” Means.
Means and Mullins are the Orioles’ most attractive players, but it seems unlikely that either will be moved.
To trade Means, the Orioles would need an attractive package, which would include at least two top-shelf starting pitcher prospects. Without Means, the Orioles don’t have an accomplished starter, and the club could have three years of club control under the current arbitration system, although that could be modified in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
With Mullins, the Orioles also would ask a lot because he is still a season away from reaching arbitration, and a team could have four years of club control. Heyman reported the New York Mets and Yankees, Houston, Philadelphia, Texas and San Francisco were among those interested.
The Orioles have a number of infield and outfield prospects but need more starting prospects. Because the Orioles aren’t under any pressure to trade Means or Mullins, their asking price will be high.
Teams don’t like to trade their best prospects because of the many years they’re under club control, and I’m not sure how good any of those six team’s starting pitcher prospects are.
It would be good to see Means and Mullins stay with the Orioles, but executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias needs to gauge the market.
No arbitration for Martin: Shortstop Richie Martin, who was a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2018, came within a week of qualifying for arbitration. The cutoff for service time for arbitration this year was two years and 116 days of service, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.
Martin, who has two years and 110 days of service, could have been a “Super Two,” but the Orioles were watching his service clock. He played the 2019 season with the Orioles, fulfilling his Rule 5 obligation, but accumulated an entire season of service time in 2020 despite not playing because of a broken right wrist.
The Orioles sent Martin to Triple-A Norfolk to begin this past season, and he broke his left wrist playing center field. Players on the 40-man roster who are injured in the minor leagues do not qualify for major league service time.
However, the Orioles needed a spot on May 31st to add catcher Austin Wynns to the 40-man roster and placed Martin on the 60-day injured list. It saved a roster spot, but he began to acquire service time.
Martin was activated on August 2nd but sent to Norfolk on August 23rd and recalled on September 9th. That late summer time with the Tides ensured that Martin would not qualify for arbitration.
That’s probably a good thing because Martin, who has played just 157 games, would likely have been non-tendered by the Orioles. Now, he remains on a big league roster and should have another chance to make the team next spring.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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