One of the unexciting but nonetheless important parts of the baseball offseason is the decision of whether or not to tender contracts to a team’s arbitration-eligible players. In advance of the Friday night deadline to make those decisions, the Orioles chose not to tender contracts to Vance Worley, making them a free agent immediately.
The other eight arbitration-eligible Orioles, including no-brainers like Manny Machado and Zach Britton, as well as more borderline cases like utilityman Ryan Flaherty and however you want to describe T.J. McFarland, were all tendered contracts by the team. They will have some time to sort out who will be getting paid what in the months to come.
For the most part, players who are non-tendered by teams are ones who either don’t have a role with the team at all due to performance, or who have been supplanted by younger, cheaper players.
Neither one of these quite applies to Worley, who was estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to be headed for a $3.3 million salary for 2017. Worley did yeoman’s work as a spot starter and long reliever for the O’s in 2016, capably covering 86.2 innings with a 3.53 ERA. Not very exciting, to be sure, but important all the same. Can’t ask for much better than that for a guy in that role.
The Orioles apparently feel that they can have one of Logan Verrett, Tyler Wilson, or Joe Gunkel filling this role - or perhaps all of them at different times, because they all have minor league options remaining while Worley does not. It may be about flexibility more than anything. The Orioles love being able to option a tired reliever for a fresh one.
They needed that fresh reliever a lot this season since their starting pitching was so bad for most of the season. With the same group of pitchers seeming to be lined up for next year’s rotation, they’ll be needing that fresh reliever on a lot of days next year too.
You can count me as skeptical that any of the Worley replacements will end up being as good as Worley was. But at the same time, if the 2017 Orioles find themselves really, really wishing that they had Vance Worley still around, then things have probably gone to such a dark place that nothing really matters any more.
Dan Duquette offered this after the news was announced:
Duquette on Worley: "The Orioles appreciate Vance Worley's contributions to our 2016 club."— Dan Connolly (@danconnolly2016) December 2, 2016
Can’t you just feel the warmth there?
If they had asked me, I would have non-tendered McFarland, too, because he is a guy who seems to have no role and whose performance suggested it was time to part ways with him. But he’s only anticipated to get a $700,000 arbitration salary, so while $3.3 million may be too much for the O’s, it seems $700k is not.
Flaherty is a guy with his detractors among O’s fans, understandably so since he’s not very good, but since he’s not very good while being able to play most positions on the diamond with something vaguely resembling competence, he’s worth keeping around for an estimated $1.7 million. A functioning farm system can produce a Flaherty-like player for the MLB minimum, but as has been repeatedly demonstrated, that’s not the O’s system.
Worley comes off the 40-man roster with this non-tender, meaning that the Orioles have 36 players on their 40-man roster. Plenty of room for Rule 5 draft shenanigans at next week’s winter meetings, and if they’re feeling really frisky, they might even sign a free agent without having to DFA somebody.