The Orioles have big decisions to make this offseason on how to shape their roster.
On Friday, their path will become clearer.
The nontender deadline — the date by which teams need to decide if they plan to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players — is 8 p.m. The Orioles have 17 players on this list, tied with the Yankees for the most in MLB.
Here’s how arbitration and the nontender deadline work.
What is arbitration?
Players start acquiring service time the day they are called up to the major leagues. They make league minimum — $740,000 in 2024 — until they hit three years of service time or hit the Super Two mark, a benchmark between two and three years of service time that changes year to year. Last year, it was set at two years and 128 days of service time.
Once they hit this mark, they become eligible for arbitration. At this time, the player and the club negotiate the player’s salary for the upcoming season, using benchmarks and comparable players as starting points. If the two parties don’t agree on a salary by the mid-January deadline, a hearing is scheduled for a panel of arbitrators to decide.
What is the nontender deadline?
The nontender deadline is the date by which a team has to decide if it is going to offer, or tender, a contract to arbitration-eligible players for the upcoming season. Figures do not need to be exchanged at this point, and the team can still designate a player for assignment or release him at any point, even if he is tendered a contract.
Players who are not tendered a contract become free agents.
Which Orioles players are eligible?
The Orioles have 17 on the list: Anthony Santander, Danny Coulombe, John Means, Ryan O’Hearn, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Dillon Tate, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Cionel Pérez, Cole Irvin, Keegan Akin, Jacob Webb, Ramón Urías, Tyler Wells, Ryan McKenna and Sam Hilliard.
Will the Orioles nontender any players?
Probably. There are some who are all but guaranteed to get a contract: Santander (projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $12.7 million), Means ($5.93 million), Hays ($6.1 million), Mountcastle ($4.2 million), Mullins ($6.4 million), Wells ($2.3 million), Coulombe ($2.2 million), O’Hearn ($3 million), Webb ($1.2 million) and Pérez ($1.3 million).
Others are on the edge. Mateo (projected at $2.9 million) and Urías ($2 million) saw their roles diminish as the season went on with the emergence of younger prospects. Mateo plays shortstop and is a factor on the basepaths, while the versatile Urías can play second, third and shortstop.
But, with Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg cemented as major leaguers and Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, on his way, the Orioles will have to decide if they still need the services of Mateo and Urías.
McKenna ($740,000) and Hilliard ($1.1 million), who was picked up from the Braves this month, could also go either way. The Orioles have outfield prospects on their way up, with Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad debuting in 2023. Cowser struggled at the plate though, hitting .115 in 26 games, while Kjerstad has a long way to go on defense and is seen more as a designated hitter.
As for the relievers, they are probably safer due to the Orioles’ lack of depth. Tate ($1.5 million) didn’t pitch in the majors this year because of a forearm strain, while Akin ($800,000) played only 24 games with the Orioles.