Are you ready to live in a world where Jim Johnson makes an eight-figure salary? MLB Trade Rumors, which released its 2014 salary projections for the Orioles' arbitration-eligible players on Thursday, thinks that you'd better prepare yourself, because Johnson tops the list with an anticipated salary of $10.8 million, an increase of over $4 million from the 2013 season.
The other two big-ticket players in the arbitration system are Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, both of whom are entering their second year of arbitration eligibility. Davis, coming off of his 53 home run season, could be in line for a raise up to a $10 million salary. He made $3.3 million in 2013. Wieters is projected to receive $7.9 million after making $5.5 million in 2013.
The increase for Davis is understandable, coming off a season as great as the one he just put together. The others are head-scratchers that can only be chalked up to the nature of baseball's salary arbitration process. In nearly every case, another year of service time means that the player gets more money than the year before. Even players who underperform get at least small increases from year to year as they go through their arbitration seasons.
In the case of a player like Wieters, whose salary as a first-year arbitration player seemed generous, he gets a raise from that starting point, and that is that. If the Orioles want the services of those players, they have to pay the price. Wieters, while disappointing, is a better option at $8 million than probably anything else they could acquire for next season.
More concerning is the salary for Johnson. The closers of the final four teams in this season's playoffs made less than $10.8 million combined, but Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has already indicated the team will be tendering Johnson a contract. That ship has sailed.
Farther down the payroll are other second-year arbitration eligible players who will be making much less than Davis and Wieters. MLB Trade Rumors predicts the following: Bud Norris ($5MM), Tommy Hunter ($3.1MM), Brian Matusz ($2.1MM), and Troy Patton ($1.2MM). The Orioles will most likely tender all of these players a contract. Steve Pearce is also projected to make $1.1 million, and they think he will be tendered, but I do not. They did not include Danny Valencia, who will be first-year eligible and will probably make less than $1 million.
The non-tender list would be Nolan Reimold ($1.2MM) and Chris Dickerson ($700,000). I will always miss what might have been with Reimold, but it is probably time to move on. Perhaps he would come back for closer to the minimum salary. Perhaps another team will swoop in and take a chance on him. Only makers of GIFs will miss Dickerson. Sorry, Chris.
Adding up all of the arbitration salaries that MLB Trade Rumors projects gets about $41.2 million for eight players. That is in addition to $45.4 million in commitments for six players on multi-year deals already, including Dylan Bundy, who won't be opening the year on the active roster as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. That's $86.6 million for 13 players, without counting the rest of the 40-man roster or any possible free agent acquisitions. For the 2013 season, the only free agent signed to a major-league deal was Nate McLouth at $2 million.
The Orioles had a $92.2 million payroll in 2013 after having an $84.1 million payroll in 2012. What is the maximum they could go for 2014, if they really wanted? The only people who know aren't telling. Two things we do know are that Forbes estimated that the Orioles had $210 million in revenue for 2013, and that every team will be getting around $25 million more per season from the national TV deal starting in 2014. $25 million buys a bit, but the rest of the teams will also have this extra money to play with.
How that revenue translates into payroll potential is also known to only a select few.
Given these salary projections, do you agree with who should be tendered and who should be released? Where do you think the Orioles 2014 payroll will end up?