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The Orioles aren’t getting big contributions from their highest paid players

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The Orioles are increasingly stingy with the money they hand out to players, and the ones making the most aren’t pulling their weight.

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

As of this morning, the Baltimore Orioles have a total payroll of roughly $43 million heading into the 2020 season. For comparison, the lowly Miami Marlins are last in payroll in baseball at $33 million and the upstart Tampa Bay Rays are one spot above the O’s at approximately $50 million.

Of course Baltimore’s payroll is bound to go up between now and the start of the upcoming season as GM Mike Elias works to add talent to the roster. But as management’s words and actions have shown, payroll increases will be minimal, as no one should expect any contract of considerable size to be handed out this offseason.

At the moment, only seven players on the Orioles’ roster are forecast to earn more than the Major League minimum. The top two players are highly paid veterans who have contributed little in terms of performance over the past several years and the other five are all arbitration-eligible players projected to earn substantial raises heading into the 2020 season.

Now, a look at those seven players in ascending order of salary. A quick note before we jump in: all 2020 base salary figures for arbitration eligible players contained herein are estimates, courtesy of Spotrac.

The seventh highest paid Oriole is left-handed reliever Richard Bleier, who had a stellar first two seasons in Orioles orange and black, registering a 1.97 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 96 innings pitched. But his 2018 season was cut short by a lat injury that required surgery. When he returned in 2019, he was not the same Bleier, as he put up a 5.37 ERA in 55.1 innings. Yet his $572,500 base salary from 2019 will increase to $915,000 in 2020 after he reached an agreement Dec. 2 to avoid arbitration.

The erratic Miguel Castro, who will be only 25 years old next year when he enters his sixth Major League season, stands to make $1.2 million, up from $569,000 the year prior. Inconsistency has plagued him over the course of his three years in Baltimore, as evidenced by his 4.06 ERA (4.93 FIP). But he’s got electric stuff and the Orioles would seem to have more time to evaluate him with the current state of the team.

Infielder Hanser Alberto surprised a lot of folks last year, finishing with the eighth best batting average in the American League at .305. He only made $578,000. But on the downside, he doesn’t have a set position — he floated between third base and second base mostly last year — and his poor OBP skills are masked by the high average. Power isn’t his strong suit either, although he did hit a surprising 12 home runs, 21 doubles and two triples last year. Heading into next season, he’s due a healthy salary bump, up to $1.9 million.

Mychal Givens has made an admirable transformation from high school shortstop draft pick to above-average Major League reliever. Although, in the 2019 season — when he earned $2.15 million — his ERA rose to a career high 4.57. On the flip side, he also set a career high in SO/9 (12.3). His propensity to give up the long ball has fluctuated greatly from year to year as well (0.5 HR/9 in 2018, 1.9 in 2019), marking his inconsistency. But the flame-throwing righty is due a hefty raise like many on this list before him, with a projected salary of $3.2 million in 2020.

Is there anything that can be said about Trey Mancini that hasn’t already? With a .291/.364/.535 triple slash in 2019, along with a career high 34 home runs, Mancini was the Most Valuable Oriole in an otherwise dismal season. Seeing as he made his major league debut at the age of 24 in 2016, this offseason will be his first chance at arbitration eligibility, and he’s projected for the largest raise of anyone on this list, from $575,000 to $5.7 million.

The two highest paid players on this list are a pair of veterans who have not performed up to their sizable contracts.

In 2020, Alex Cobb will be in year three of a four-year contract that pays him roughly $14 per year (although he’s due $15 million in 2021). In his first two truncated seasons with the O’s, Cobb has a 5.36 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 31 starts. We’ll see when/if he’s ready to go next season after undergoing hip surgery during the 2019 season.

And lastly, there’s Chris Davis — no need to really beat a dead horse here. We are all familiar with the stats. He made a $17 million base salary in 2019, which counted for a $23 million luxury tax salary. 2020 will be year five of his seven-year contract with no early exit for the Orioles in sight.

The biggest takeaway from this list is the fact that these seven players stand a good chance to be former Orioles sometime this season or next. Elias and company have shown no compunction to jettison decent players they deem to be overpriced in the short-term.

Obviously, certain guys on this list will be harder to move than others — I’m looking at you, Alex Cobb and Chris Davis. But the relatively younger and more capable players would seem to have more value in a trade than on this rebuilding club for only a couple more years.

All payroll and salary figures provided by Spotrac.com