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Orioles settle on 2019 contracts with their three arbitration-eligible players

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There won’t be any arbitration hearings for the Orioles in Mike Elias’s first winter on the job.

Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

The Orioles headed into Friday’s deadline still needing to settle on 2019 contracts with their three arbitration-eligible players. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported first that the O’s reached agreements with each of Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy, and Mychal Givens.

The 2019 salaries that the players and the Orioles agreed upon:

Villar, as the player who has the most service time, is going to get the most money. It’s his second year of arbitration, where Bundy and Givens are only in their first year. MLB Trade Rumors had predicted a $4.4 million salary for Villar, $3 million for Bundy, and $2 million for Givens.

Elsewhere, recent ex-Oriole Kevin Gausman settled on a $9.35 million 2019 salary with his new team, the Braves. Earlier in the offseason, the O’s decided not to tender 2019 contracts to two more arbitration-eligible players, Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph. Beckham has since signed a $1.75 million contract with the Mariners, while Joseph remains unsigned.

Recent past seasons have seen arbitration-eligible players taking up a big chunk of the budgeted payroll, so the settlements, or not, were important parts of the picture of what the O’s might be able to spend on any remaining free agents. Last season, in their final years of arbitration, Manny Machado earned $16 million and Zach Britton earned $12 million.

That mattered when they were contending or pretending to contend and the question of what the O’s could afford to add to that season’s roster was an important one. The O’s just don’t have any of those sorts of players left. For the next couple of years at least, any arbitration eligible O’s who play well enough to earn the gigantic salaries, or even modest raises, will probably get traded for talent that will help in the more distant future.

There isn’t going to be a Mookie Betts getting $20 million around here, or Jacob deGrom getting $17 million, each with another year of eligibility next year.

The 2019 Orioles are going nowhere. We have known this since at least last May of last year. The hiring of new general manager Mike Elias has done nothing to change that reality. He has building to do to fix what was broken around here and there aren’t short-term solutions.

Without any free agent expenditures, the Opening Day payroll is currently estimated by Cot’s Contracts to be about $77 million. That’s close to half of last year’s figure of about $148 million.

The money is being reinvested in other areas of the franchise, the O’s say, and there’s no reason to doubt that yet. When Elias’s talent pipeline has been built, we’ll find out again how serious the O’s are in investing MLB payroll into staying good. Of course, part of the problem in the Dan Duquette era was not whether they’d spend money, but whether they could spend it wisely. That’s another thing we’ll find out when they start spending again.

In non-arbitration news on Friday, the Orioles announced that they claimed infielder Hanser Alberto off of waivers from the Yankees. As they made this move with a full 40-man roster, they then designated catcher Andrew Susac for assignment.

Alberto, 26, has 192 plate appearances scattered across three big league seasons with the Rangers in which he’s batted a combined .192/.210/.231. The Yankees had claimed him off waivers themselves in early November and then designated him for assignment earlier today when they officially signed Britton.

Alberto was mostly a shortstop in the minor leagues, though he’s been used more like a utility infielder at the MLB level. Maybe he has a bit more batting potential than he’s shown in MLB so far, as he batted .309/.330/.438 across four Triple-A seasons. But that’s not many walks and not much power, with just 19 homers in that time. MLB pitchers make it harder for that profile to work.

Susac, heading towards his age 29 season, appeared in nine games for the O’s last year. He was one of the many latter-day Duquette bargain basement acquisitions who did not turn out to be a solution to any of the O’s problems.