The Orioles’ payroll on opening day could be as much as $33.1 million higher than it was at the end of last season, but it’s not necessarily by choice.

They had 17 arbitration-eligible players and tendered contracts to all of them (although that does not mean all will be on the opening day roster). Their salaries are calculated based on playing time, position, role, performance statistics and what comparable players receive. That means players such as Ryan Mountcastle, who a year ago made about the league minimum of $700,000, get a big pay raise. This year, in his first year of arbitration, he will earn $4.1 million.

The team spent $28.4 million on new players. They include Corbin Burnes, acquired from the Brewers and owed $15.6 million this year, and Craig Kimbrel, a free agent signed for $12 million.

But, of the $33 million possible payroll increase this season, only $7.4 million is new spending on player acquisitions when you offset the salaries that have come off the payroll in free agency. Kyle Gibson ($10 million), Adam Frazier ($8 million), Shintaro Fujinami ($3.25 million total, $1,275,529 paid by Orioles after trade), Jack Flaherty ($5.4 million total, $1,770,952 paid by Orioles after trade) and Aaron Hicks (salary paid by Yankees) were all on the Orioles last year and have since signed with other teams. That’s $21 million the Orioles do not have to pay this year.

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The remaining $25.7 million in increased spending comes on players who were on the roster last year.

Players usually make the league minimum until they reach their third (or, in some cases, between their second and third) year of service time, when they become eligible for arbitration. Their salaries are negotiated between the team and the player’s agent every offseason until they reach their sixth year of service time, when the player becomes a free agent.

If the team and player do not agree on a number, the case goes to an arbitration hearing. Both sides propose a salary, and an independent party determines the outcome. This year, the Orioles had two players go to hearings. Austin Hays won his case, filing at $6.3 million versus the Orioles at $5.85 million. Jacob Webb also succeeded, and he will earn $1 million versus the $925,000 the Orioles submitted.

The rest of the salaries were determined without hearings. Six players got a minimal raise, receiving less than $1 million more than 2023. The salary for Dillon Tate, who missed all of 2023 with a forearm injury, did not increase.

Anthony Santander ($4.3 million more), Mountcastle ($3.4 million), Hays ($3.1 million), Cedric Mullins ($2.2 million) and Ryan O’Hearn ($2.1 million) saw the biggest increases.

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The Orioles have an additional $3 million on their payroll because of James McCann’s contract. They acquired him from the Mets prior to the 2023 season, and, as part of the deal, paid only $1 million of his $12.15 million salary last year. This year, they are responsible for $4 million.

Though this is all in flux because MLB can change significantly in the lead-up to opening day, the Orioles are projected to have the 22nd-highest payroll in the league, according to Spotrac. They spent most of last season at 29th, ahead of only the Oakland Athletics.

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