The Orioles had a large to-do list entering Thursday’s arbitration deadline, and they checked off multiple boxes throughout the day. But the to-do list still has five players remaining, prompting the team and players to exchange salary proposals ahead of potential arbitration hearings.
The implications are minimal. The team and players can negotiate a new deal up until the hearings, which usually occur in February. And each of the five players who didn’t sign a deal Thursday is still guaranteed a place on the roster next season.
Outfielder Austin Hays, infielder Ryan O’Hearn, left-handers Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez and right-hander Jacob Webb ended Thursday without an agreement, a source with direct knowledge said.
Meanwhile, eight of Baltimore’s 13 arbitration-eligible players signed deals, with values obtained via source or through reports.
The biggest went to outfielder Anthony Santander, who earned an $11.7 million deal on the back of another strong campaign at the plate. He clubbed 28 homers with a .257 average last year, and he’ll likely hold down right field again for Baltimore. For Santander, this was his fourth and final go-around as an arbitration-eligible player. He could become a free agent next winter.
Outfielder Cedric Mullins ($6.325 million), left-hander Cole Irvin ($2 million), right-hander Dillon Tate ($1.5 million), left-hander John Means ($3.325 million), first baseman Ryan Mountcastle ($4.137 million), infielder Ramón Urías ($2.1 million) and right-hander Tyler Wells ($1.963 million) secured their deals before Thursday’s 8 p.m. deadline.
The Orioles originally had 17 arbitration-eligible players heading into the winter, but they signed four to contracts in November. Shortstop Jorge Mateo signed for $2.7 million. Left-hander Keegan Akin agreed to a $825,000 deal, and outfielders Sam Hilliard and Ryan McKenna each got $800,000.
For a player to be eligible for arbitration, he must generally have at least three years and no more than six years of service time.
If the player and team head to a hearing, an arbitrator then determines which of the two salary proposals is commensurate with the player’s production.
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has developed a reputation to follow the “file and trial” approach — meaning the Orioles would file their proposed salary to the arbitrators and wait — but in recent years Means and Trey Mancini both avoided hearings after the deadline.
That could be on the horizon for the five players who didn’t reach a deal before Thursday’s deadline.
Hays is the most notable player who is potentially headed for a hearing. The 28-year-old outfielder, who plays primarily left field but also slots into center, is coming off the best season of his major league career. Hays became a first-time All-Star last year as he hit .275 with a .769 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He’s one of the few veterans in the clubhouse who has seen out the rebuild and remains an everyday player.
O’Hearn also put together a strong year, and his versatility between first base and right field is an added benefit. O’Hearn hit .289 with an .801 OPS — the best figures of his career.
Coulombe was a late addition ahead of last year’s opening day, but the southpaw quickly became an integral piece of the bullpen. He threw 51 1/3 innings and finished with a 2.81 ERA.
Webb joined the Orioles as a waiver claim late in the year and had a strong start to his tenure in Baltimore, allowing just two hits and no runs in his first 8 2/3 innings. He finished the regular season with a 3.27 ERA in 22 innings, although he struggled in two postseason appearances.
And Pérez took a step back from the heights he reached in 2022, when he pitched to a 1.40 ERA. Still, the Cuban left-hander put together a solid campaign, finishing with a 3.54 ERA in 53 1/3 innings.
The Orioles had one of the largest arbitration classes in the major leagues, which is “an earmark of having a good roster these days,” Elias said this offseason. They still have work to do to finalize that class, be it in an arbitration hearing or over the next month.
Here are the players who came to terms with the ballclub:
Tyler Wells: He proved himself as Baltimore’s best starting pitcher over the first half of the 2023 season before arm fatigue shut him down. Now, Wells will return with an improved contract in his first arbitration-eligible offseason. According to MLB.com, Wells will earn just shy of $2 million in 2024, when he aims to build off a season in which he held a 3.64 ERA.
Ramón Urías: The Orioles and Urías settled at $2.1 million, giving the utility infielder a healthy raise in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported the terms. Urías hit .264 last year with a .703 OPS while playing third, second and first base.
Ryan Mountcastle: After hitting 18 home runs in 2023, Mountcastle avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility by agreeing to a deal worth $4.137 million, according to MLB Network.
Cedric Mullins: Baltimore’s everyday center fielder is back with an improved contract, avoiding arbitration with a deal worth $6.325 million, according to MASN. Mullins hit .233 last year and was stellar in the field.
Cole Irvin: In and out of the rotation in 2023, Irvin avoided arbitration with a deal worth $2 million, a source said. Irvin, a trade addition last offseason, pitched 77 1/3 innings for the Orioles, with 12 of his 24 appearances coming as a starter. He held a 4.42 ERA.
Dillon Tate: The Orioles and the right-handed reliever agreed to a deal worth $1.5 million, a source confirmed. MLB Network first reported the deal.
Tate earned the same amount as he did in 2023, which is typical for a player who has gone through arbitration before yet missed the season due to injury. Tate was a key performer in 2022, pitching to a 3.05 ERA as a leverage hurler. He missed 2023 because of a right forearm injury.
John Means: The left-hander should make a full return to the Orioles in 2024, and he’ll do so with a reported $3.325 million contract, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Means, who pitched four games last season after recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, was projected to make $5.93 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
Anthony Santander: A former Rule 5 selection, Santander has made the most of his chance in Baltimore. And now he’s set to become the Orioles’ second-highest-paid player. According to Robert Murray of FanSided, Santander and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $11.7 million deal.