Looking ahead to Orioles' arbitration season - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Looking ahead to Orioles’ arbitration season

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Division Series begins on Tuesday night, and the World Series may not end until November 5th, arbitration season is coming quickly, and MLBTradeRumors.com published its widely followed estimates of what players filing for arbitration could earn.

The Orioles have seven players eligible for arbitration: outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, reliever Dillon Tate, starter Austin Voth, shortstop Jorge Mateo and catcher Cam Gallagher.

John Means, who had Tommy John surgery in April and whose timetable for 2023 is unknown, is the only player on the Orioles’ roster signed for next season. Means agreed to a two-year contract in May, avoiding arbitration for 2023, and his salary next year will be $2,975,000.

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Santander is in his third year of arbitration eligibility. He still has another year left. In 2021, he didn’t settle with the Orioles, and received $2.1 million after losing a hearing. This season, he settled for $3.15 million before the lockout.

In 2022, Santander led the Orioles with 33 home runs and 89 RBIs but hit only .240 with a .773 OPS.

TradeRumors estimates that Santander could get $7.5 million in arbitration. There’s been chatter in both 2021 and 2022 that Santander could be traded, but his power numbers are so strong that the guess here is that the Orioles hold on to him—at least until next July.

Mullins is in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and though his 2022 season wasn’t as strong as 2021, when he became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, it was more than respectable. The centerfielder had a 5.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2021, and a 3.3 WAR this season. However, Mullins’ defensive WAR increased this season from .4 to 1.0.

Mullins had nine assists and didn’t make an error in 2022. Last year, he had seven assists and made six errors.

His batting average dropped from .291 to .258, and he hit 16 home runs, down from 30. He drove in five more runs (64) than he did last year and stole 34 bases, four more than he did in a year ago, finishing second in the American League to Mateo, who had 35. MLBTradeRumors predicts that Mullins could earn $4.4 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Hays’ first-half numbers were strong. He hit .270 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs and a .779 OPS. In the second half, Hays slumped to .220 with 4 home runs and just 14 RBIs with a .626 OPS.

A stronger second half could have helped Hays at the arbitration table. MLBTR estimates that he’ll get $3.1 million, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him packaged for starting pitching, especially if the Orioles think Kyle Stowers is ready to play regularly.

But the Orioles might be selling low on Hays, and with Stowers and Colton Cowser on the horizon, they could hold off on a trade until next July or next offseason.

Voth’s is an interesting case. Picked up off waivers in June from Washington, Voth was a solid starter, who went 5-4 with a 3.04 earned-run average in 22 games, 17 starts with the Orioles. The Orioles have a number of candidates for the rotation in 2023, and they could see Voth as a swingman. His estimated salary is $2 million.

Dillon Tate had an effective 2022, with a 4-4 record and 3.05 ERA and five saves in six chances. His estimated salary is $1.5 million.

Mateo’s 35 steals in 44 attempts led the American League, and he hit 13 home runs with 50 RBIs, but he hit only .221 and struck out more than five times as often as he walked (147/27). Walking as rarely as he did helped contribute to his subpar .267 on-base percentage.

Mateo is a rare player whose defensive play helped his WAR more than his offense did. He has a 3.3 WAR with a 2.3 defensive WAR.

Gallagher was claimed off waivers from San Diego last month and was around the team for the last 10 days of the season, but wasn’t active. He hit just .218 in 15 games for Kansas City and, after parts of six big leagues seasons, all with the Royals, Gallagher has amassed enough service time for arbitration eligibility.

Gallagher could be a candidate to be Adley Rutschman’s backup next year, but an estimated $1 million price tag for a catcher with just 171 big league games since 2017 may be a little high for the Orioles, especially with Anthony Bemboom, who was sent to Norfolk when Rutschman arrived, added to the roster last week.

Note: Right-handed reliever Anthony Castro, who was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Norfolk.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Oriole questions in the coming days. Please email them to: [email protected]

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