The Orioles headed into Friday’s soft deadline for teams to reach agreements with their arbitration-eligible players for 2023 contracts with six salaries still to be resolved. They settled on contracts with five of them, including the outfield trio of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander. Only Austin Voth still has his contract unsettled.
Players become eligible for arbitration after three years of service time. Some players, like Santander, are known as “Super Two” players who qualify with more than two but less than three years. Each successive year in arbitration, players are paid closer to what they might receive on the open free agent market.
Friday’s deadline was for teams and players to agree on a salary for 2023 or else the two sides are obligated to set an amount and an arbitrator would decide between the two. In the past, this deadline was not firm and teams and players often arrived at settlements near the midpoint between the two dollar amounts.
Recently, most MLB clubs have adopted a “file and trial” approach which generally means that they don’t negotiate any further after this point. The Orioles are one of those teams, except for when they make an exception. Last year, for instance, the team was headed towards a hearing with both Trey Mancini and John Means. They ended up settling on contracts with both, with Mancini receiving a 2022 agreement with a mutual option for 2023, and Means getting a two-year contract after his Tommy John surgery happened.
Here’s who reached agreements on Friday and for how much:
- Anthony Santander - $7.4 million
- Cedric Mullins - $4.1 million
- Austin Hays - $3.2 million
- Jorge Mateo - $2 million
- Dillon Tate - $1.5 million
As usual, these salary numbers all came in very close to the MLB Trade Rumors estimates for their 2023 arbitration numbers. The numbers exchanged by the team and Voth have not yet been reported. MLBTR’s estimate was that Voth would receive a $2 million salary for the season.
Articles that discuss the Orioles 2023 payroll have mostly already factored these estimates into their considerations, so the team’s payroll picture isn’t changed much by these agreements. Cot’s Contracts, for instance, lists the Orioles with a $64.5 million payroll, which included an estimate of $7.1 million for Santander, $5 million for Mullins, and $900,000 for Tate. One of those is an overestimate and two are underestimates. The three add up to the same estimated total, just allocated slightly differently.
Teams and players have a lot to haggle over for the details of the arbitration numbers because each year’s salary is the new baseline against which a player will get a raise the next season. A difference of $200,000 in the first year of arbitration could mean a difference of $2 million by the third year. Players want to get paid. Teams want to control their costs.
Most of the time, they can reach an agreement. Voth and the Orioles, for whatever reason, do not seem to have done so. Perhaps there was a disagreement about whether Voth should be paid like a starting pitcher or like a swingman.
Hearings, which typically take place during spring training, are usually talked about as something to be avoided because they amount to the player sitting there while a team representative tells the arbitrator how much the player sucks and doesn’t deserve more money.
There have been known to be lingering bad feelings that sour relationships. When the time comes, the Orioles had better not ruffle the feathers of Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson. I don’t expect to lose any sleep over whether Voth is upset by this process and what that means for his long-term future with the team.