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Orioles exchange salary figures with six arbitration-eligible players

The Orioles exchanged salary figures with their six remaining arbitration-eligible players on Friday. Dan Duquette told MASN's Roch Kubatko that he expects to get to a hearing with one or two players.

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After settling on 2015 contracts with five of their eleven arbitration-eligible players before Friday evening, the Orioles exchanged salary figures with the remaining six of them. These numbers will stand as the basis for negotiation between now and any arbitration hearings, if necessary. Hearings take place throughout February and can be settled any time before they start.

Here are the six players who are left to settle and what figures were exchanged:

Player Player $ Team $ Gap MLBTR Projection
Alejandro De Aza $5,650,000 $5,000,000 $650,000 $5,900,000
Steve Pearce $5,400,000 $2,200,000 $3,200,000 $2,200,000
Bud Norris $10,250,000 $7,500,000 $2,750,000 $8,700,000
Miguel Gonzalez $3,950,000 $2,500,000 $1,450,000 $3,700,000
Ryan Flaherty $1,500,000 $900,000 $600,000 $1,000,000
Zach Britton $4,200,000 $2,200,000 $2,000,000 $3,200,000

If things go to a hearing, then the two sides will argue before an arbitrator, who will then choose one side or the other's salary number. It's generally considered to be to the advantage of both sides to settle before then, as the arbitration hearing amounts to a team tearing down its own player, who is often present. There is benefit to both sides in getting the certainty of a negotiated number, rather than the uncertainty of an all or nothing hearing and ruling.

While some of these gaps are large in terms of raw dollars, if you figure that the numbers were filed a bit high by the player and a bit low by the team, so they could be protected as they move to the middle, it's really not that bad. The halfway point between Norris and what the O's filed, for instance, is just above the MLBTR projected salary for Norris. So if he's willing to move by $1.37 million and so is the team, they can make a deal.

It's a similar case for Zach Britton. If he and the team are each willing to move a million, then he'd hit right at the $3.2 million projected salary. Maybe they will be able to do so, maybe they won't.

The Orioles do not tend to go to arbitration hearings often, and when they get to a hearing, they don't lose. Only once in the Dan Duquette tenure have they even had a hearing, when they won a case against Brad Bergesen, who wanted $1.2 million while the team offered $800,000. Why did they have to fight over $400,000? It all seems rather silly, but then, so does Bergesen wanting over a million dollars at that point in time.

Having in the past shown a willingness to go to the hearing over a small amount of money, it might be a possibility for, say, the Flaherty case, as the $600,000 gap is small, but that also represents the Orioles offering 40% less than Flaherty wants. Perhaps neither side would want to budge to that midpoint.

The one who stands out the most is Pearce, as the two sides are far apart in dollars as well as percentage. Pearce wants more than double what the team offered him. The $3.25 million gap is the largest between the Orioles and any of their players. It stands out even more with the projected salary being exactly what the team offered. They probably filed in anticipation of settling for more than they offered, but they may not be willing to go to the halfway point.

Dan Duquette emerged from wherever he's hiding out and dodging Toronto rumors to tell MASN's Roch Kubatko that all of the gaps "look manageable," although he expects to go down to the hearing with one or two players. Kubatko reports that he had heard the Orioles were going to be "file and trial" with at least one player. That means that once they get to the salary exchange, they stop negotiating and plan for the hearing. Some teams do this with every player, though the Orioles have not been one of them in recent years.

De Aza, Pearce, and Norris are all in their final year of arbitration eligibility, which is why their salaries are higher than the others. Gonzalez, Flaherty, and Britton are each in their first year of arbitration. Britton qualified as a Super Two player, which means he will get four years of arbitration salaries, instead of the usual three.