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Wednesday Bird Droppings: Dreaming of player extensions

Loose ends of the team sale, a changing of the guard in the outfield, and arbitration decisions.

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Division Series - Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

Ryan O’Hearn is the only current Oriole still waiting to find out what his 2024 salary will be. That is after both Austin Hays and Jacob Webb won their arbitration cases against the team on Tuesday. Hays will make $6.3 million rather than the team-suggested $5.85 million, and Webb will take home $1 million after his win over the team’s $925,000. O’Hearn will be battling for $3.8 million, meanwhile the Orioles filed at $3.2 million.

Arbitration is a nasty process that is preferably avoided altogether. Stories come out every year about how a player ends up exiting the hearings with a rancid taste in their mouth. After all, the team is arguing why you are worth less than you think. It’s a naturally contentious situation.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case for Hays, at least not according to his agent Francis Marquez. After the hearing concluded on Tuesday, Marquez said that Hays “expressed interest to the team” in a long-term extension. The arbitration process does occasionally open up those conversations, but there is no indication that significant progress was made.

The topic of extensions for Orioles players is a hot one right now. In the light of the team being sold to an especially wealthy new group, and the Royals inking Bobby Witt Jr. to a big deal, the O’s feel like the next ones up to the table. The club is loaded with young talent. It would be odd for them to not try and sign at least one of them long term.

But the group of players that seem in line for an extension are the likes of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, and Jackson Holliday. In general, these are pre-arbitration players that already seem to have the goods. Signing them now would buy out their arbitration seasons plus a few of their early free agent years and likely allow them one more “bite at the apple” later on.

Hays is in a very different bucket. He’s a veteran, going through arbitration for the second time, and drawing ever closer to free agency. He’s coming off the best season of his career, one that saw him make an All-Star team, be named a Gold Glove finalist, and stay healthy all year long. In order for him to sign an extension right now, he would have to be blown away by an offer. And that just wouldn’t make sense for the Orioles.

Hays, Anthony Santander, and Cedric Mullins are the old guard in the Orioles outfield. All of them are valuable players and all of them will hit free agency within the next two years. Santander goes on the market next winter. Hays and Mullins will follow the year after. The Orioles aren’t going to keep them all. In fact, they might not keep any of them.

Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser are big league ready. They may not be “everyday” ready, but that’s what we will learn in 2024. The team’s top pick last summer, Enrique Bradfield Jr., already has the glove and the legs of a big league center fielder. Coby Mayo and Connor Norby both impressed at Triple-A last year and could each seem some corner outfield time this summer. And who knows which prospects will “pop” in the months ahead.

The point is that while Hays would probably need a big offer to sign long-term today, the Orioles would be on the opposite end of the spectrum. They have to believe that their everyday left fielder for 2026 is somewhere in their system right now. Why would they lock up Hays unless the deal was extremely team friendly?

The logic makes it clear that Hays’ agent was simply doing his job, but not basing his comments on anything imminent. It’s nice to hear a player wants to stay in Baltimore. Hays is already a fan favorite, and comments like that only serve to further endear him, regardless of how much weight they actually carry.

Links

O’s position preview: Veteran outfielders must fend off young wave | The Baltimore Sun
The kids are coming, and eventually they will take over. But it might be a few months before that happens. The Orioles have a very nice floor with their current set-up. The younger players could stand to learn a bit more, and maybe even hit the ground running when the time comes.

The Sudden Sale of the Baltimore Orioles Left Behind Some Loose Ends | The Wall Street Journal
Camden Yards may be getting a sponsor added to its name, but that remains unclear. Apparently the departing control person, one John Angelos, had agreed to a deal with T. Rowe Price to sell them the naming rights to Oriole Park. But he didn’t tell them he was selling the team. So, the deal may be off? Who knows. If David Rubenstein is truly tapped into the fan base he will veto a stadium sponsor.

The rapid rise of baseball’s top prospect, plus a Cinderella to love | The Athletic
Just a little more background from Keith Law on why he made Jackson Holliday his top prospects. In short: He’s real good, he’s real young, and he plays a real important position.

Jacob Webb Wins Arbitration Hearing Over Orioles | MLB Trade Rumors
Good for you, Jacob. For your sake, I hope you make the team so you can actually get that paycheck.

Austin Hays Wins Arbitration Hearing Against Orioles | MLB Trade Rumors
Just a little more information on Hays earning his slightly bigger pay day. He’s been a great Oriole that has taken an unconventional path to everyday productivity.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • Scott Feldman turns 41. He only stuck around for one mediocre season in 2013, but will undoubtedly be remembered as the guy that the O’s gave up eventual Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta for in one of the franchise’s more lopsided trades.
  • Jon Leicester is 45 today. He pitched in 10 games for the 2007 Orioles.
  • Endy Chávez celebrates his 46th birthday. He only played in 64 games for the 2012 O’s, but that was long enough to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated that season.
  • Dave Borkowski turns 47. During the 2004 season he pitched in 17 games with the Orioles.
  • Benny Ayala is 73. His Orioles career ran from 1979 through ‘84, during which time he was a part-time option in the outfield and at DH. He drove in the tying run of Game 3 of the 1983 World Series, an eventual 3-2 O’s win.
  • The late Al Smith (b. 1928, d. 2002) was born on this day. He spent just one season with the O’s, playing left and right field for the club in 1963.

This day in O’s history

2012 - The Oriole get into hot water with the Korea Baseball Organization over the signing of 17-year-old pitcher Seong-min Kim. The KBO accuses the O’s of failing to notify the league that they were negotiating with Kim, something they are required to do. The KBO follows by banning Orioles scouts from all events it organizes. MLB steps in days later to void Kim’s contract.