By 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Orioles must offer contracts to their six arbitration-eligible players. The deadline was moved up by two days so that it would occur before an expected lockout begins on Thursday.
Let’s take a closer look at the six players and see what the Orioles might decide on each.
The senior Oriole, who is just one season away from free agency, could get $7.9 million in arbitration, according to calculations from MLBTradeRumors.com.
Mancini, who was used almost as much as a designated hitter than first baseman in 2021, made $4.75 million, the same salary he had when he missed the entire 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
As the Orioles’ and baseball’s best feel good story of last season, Mancini was recognized last week with the third of his American League Comeback Player of the Year awards.
His most impressive number was his 147 games played. Although his numbers (21 home runs, 71 RBIs, .255 average and .758 OPS) weren’t the best of his career, they weren’t bad, especially when considering Mancini hit only two homers and drove in 11 runs after August 1st.
The Orioles haven’t made a move to extend or trade Mancini and could hold on to him until the July trade deadline—or perhaps beyond.
What happens with Mancini: The Orioles offer him a contract by Tuesday evening, but not an extension.
There was a report last week that the Orioles’ most accomplished starter was offered in trade talks. With the astronomical sums being paid top free-agent starters, it seems likely that the Orioles’ asking price for Means could climb even higher.
Obtaining a top left-handed starter with three years of club control should cost at least two top pitching prospects and other assets. His salary for 2022 is estimated at $3.1 million.
It seems unlikely that a Means trade will occur by Tuesday night, and he should be the team’s Opening Day starter in 2022.
What happens with Means: He’s offered a contract.
After playing just 37 games of the 60-game season in 2021, the switch-hitting outfielder was a finalist for the Gold Glove in right field and was voted the Most Valuable Oriole.
Santander’s stats were a .261 average and an .890 OPS, and he became the first Oriole to go to arbitration during the tenure of Mike Elias as executive vice president/general manager. He lost his case and got a $2.1 million salary.
In 2021, Santander, whose 2020 season ended three weeks early because of an oblique injury, sprained his left ankle in April, and it affected him for much of the season.
He also was on the Covid-19 injured list and injured his right knee in September. Santander hit .241 with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs in 110 games and a .720 OPS.
His estimated salary for 2022 is $3.7 million and that may be too high for an outfielder whose defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) dropped from .7 to -.6.
What happens with Santander: The Orioles trade him for prospects. They have a number of outfielders (Ryan McKenna, DJ Stewart plus rookies Yusniel Diaz, Robert Neustrom and Kyle Stowers) that could take his place, either at the beginning of the season or later on. They also could sign a veteran free-agent outfielder as a placeholder.
The decision on López might be the most interesting one. While his overall numbers (3-14, 6.07) aren’t impressive, he might have enhanced his career by going to the bullpen late in the season.
In eight games as a reliever, López had a 2.16 ERA, allowing two runs on six hits in 8 1/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking just two.
López’s salary estimate is $1.5 million and while that might seem high for a young starter with a poor record, it seems reasonable for an effective reliever, something the Orioles need.
What happens with López: The Orioles offer him a contract, and he becomes a bullpen asset.
One of the reasons the Orioles need López is because left-hander Tanner Scott, who received some votes in the Most Valuable Oriole award in 2020, had a rocky 2021. Scott, who was 5-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 2021, had a 2.78 ERA in the first half of the season and a 9.82 ERA in the second half.
He was twice sent to the injured list because of knee injuries, and the Orioles are betting that he’ll rebound in 2022. Scott’s estimated salary for next season is $1 million.
What happens with Scott: The Orioles re-sign him, and he becomes a trade chip.
Fry, who was a weapon in 2018 and 2020, had his worst season with the team in 2021. While he had a 4-5 record with two saves and a 6.08 ERA, his August ERA was 21.86.
While some believe Fry suffered because of the Major League Baseball crackdown on sticky substances, he thrived in July (2.79 ERA and 0.724 WHIP), the month after umpires began checking pitchers.
Fry was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on August 29th and didn’t return to the Orioles. His estimated salary for 2022 is $1 million.
What happens with Fry: Now that the Orioles have added another left-handed reliever, Cionel Pérez, to the 40-man roster, Fry is dealt for a prospect or two.
Note: The Orioles have released right-hander Brooks Kriske. He was claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees on September 16th and was 1-0 with a 12.27 ERA in four games. There are 39 players on the 40-man roster.