While Birdland is captivated by the evolution of the Chris Davis saga into the Yoenis Cespedes saga, one of the small but important deadlines of the baseball offseason is coming up on Friday. This is the day by which arbitration-eligible players and teams must swap salary requests if those players are still unsigned for 2016.
The deadline creates a flurry of activity as most players agree to deals before numbers are officially exchanged. The O's have agreed with most of those players ahead of the deadline, although the cases of lefty relievers Brian Matusz and Zach Britton remain unsettled.
It's an important step for the O's in particular because with so many arbitration-eligible players, plugging in known numbers for the payroll reduces uncertainty - and with the O's still out there on the free agent market, it's important they know what they're already spending so they know exactly how much they have left to spend.
The arbitration process, for the most part, is for players who have achieved at least three years of MLB service time. Once they get to that point, they have some leverage in negotiating each year's salary, with players getting raises based on the previous salaries of players with comparable performance and service time. The better you do, and the more years of service you have, the more money you will receive.
Though Matusz and Britton haven't settled yet, the introduction of each side's numbers tends to create a natural point to settle - halfway between the two requests. Some teams are "file and trial" teams, meaning they will take a player to a hearing as soon as numbers are exchanged. In an arbitration hearing, it's one side or the other who wins completely. Nobody wants to get to that point. So the Orioles aren't one of these file and trial teams. It's unusual for them to get to a hearing, and if they get to that point, they mostly win.
Rounding up the settlements from the last couple of days:
|Player||Arb. Year||2015 Salary||2016 Projection||2016 Salary|
|Zach Britton||2nd (Super 2)||$3,200,000||$6,900,000||TBD|
The Super 2 designation for Britton means he is one of a few players who, while not having three full years of service time, came just close enough. That means he'll have four years of arbitration eligibility instead of the standard three. He'll get expensive. Players who get saves get paid because previous players who got saves got paid.
The Orioles had previously agreed on 2016 contracts with arbitration-eligible players Nolan Reimold ($1,300,000) and Vance Worley ($2,600,000), both of whom are in their third and final year of arbitration eligibility.
As you can see, there's not a whole lot of movement in either direction over what might have been predicted already. They're good at this. Machado comes in a bit lower than the projection, probably because it's hard to compare him to other young players. The $900,000 the Orioles "saved" in that Machado money is partly spread around to other players. Note that all of these numbers were negotiated independently, so this is just a discussion of the results.
What you'll probably see happen later tonight is Britton requests a salary of like $9 million and the Orioles offer $5 million. Some people will freak out and say, "OMG, the Orioles are four million apart from Britton! Peter Angelos is cheap! This is a disaster!" Then they'll settle for $7 million. That's how it usually works. The two sides submitted numbers $2 million apart last year and met exactly in the middle. There's no reason to panic. They figure it out. Both sides have incentive to meet in the middle.
Something similar will play out with Matusz, though the two sides will be closer together in dollars. Maybe the Orioles submit at the projected $3.4 million and Matusz asks for $4.2 million and they come together at $3.7 million. What's a few hundred thousand dollars between friends, anyway? Matusz is fortunate that the contract he signed when drafted provided him with a higher base salary when he started getting arbitration raises.
In neither case should the remaining two cases drastically alter the payroll situation, so when it comes to Davis, Cespedes, or whoever, the O's can spend whatever they were going to spend already.