Players with less than three years of service time don't get a whole lot of say in how much money they make. For the most part, the conversation amounts to this:
Team: "Hey, do you want to keep playing baseball?"
Team: "Great! Here's how much money you're going to make this year."
It's not quite that simple, of course, and a player's agent can do some small amount of negotiating over things like a bonus for making an All-Star team or winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or something of that nature. In general, though, for a player who is pre-arbitration, you're going to make at or near the MLB minimum salary.
For 2015, that number is $507,500. Players who've accrued a little service time will get a small amount more, probably not more than $550,000. That's the way it is. One reason why the arbitration process is what it is, occasionally generating some head-scratching salary outcomes for players, is because it is giving the player leverage where before they had none.
After Manny Machado's sparkling Platinum Glove-winning 2013 season, for instance, his salary increased from $495,000 to $519,000. In the long run, Machado likely won't be hurting for salary from his baseball career. He already collected a multi-million dollar signing bonus out of high school and in another year he'll take his turn in the arbitration process. If he keeps performing like we've seen him be capable of performing, that will go well for him.
The Orioles have 16 players who fall in this category this year. On Tuesday evening they announced that they had agreed to terms with all of those players. That represents everyone on the 40-man roster who's not covered by another contract. For instance, Oliver Drake and Eddie Gamboa are pre-arbitration players but they actually signed as six-year minor league free agents, so their salary for this year was already covered.
The players are:
Pitchers: Tim Berry, Brad Brach, Jason Garcia, Kevin Gausman, Logan Verrett, T.J. McFarland, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright
Catchers: Steve Clevenger, Caleb Joseph
Infielders: Machado, Jimmy Paredes, Jonathan Schoop, Christian Walker
Outfielders: David Lough, Henry Urrutia
The process of agreeing to terms is fairly routine, although at this time a year ago the Orioles and Machado did not agree to terms. That means the team just unilaterally renews the contract at whatever level they deem. Whatever hiccup occurred at that time to cause that outcome seems to have been smoothed over in the intervening year.
Machado will likely make the most of any of these named players, though even he will probably be relatively far off from the modest $1 million salary Ryan Flaherty received in his first time as an arbitration-eligible player.
With all of this settled, the Orioles' Opening Day payroll for the 2015 season will clock in at about $120 million. That's actually the 13th-highest payroll in MLB, though it's only the fourth-highest payroll in the AL East. The O's are in the neighborhood of the St. Louis Cardinals (estimated $120.5 million) and the Chicago Cubs (estimated $119.4 million). It's a payroll about $11 million above what they spent last year. Keeping the gang together costs money.