Today is arbitration exchange day in Major League Baseball.
By late this afternoon we will know what agent Scott Boras believes catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis should earn in 2014. And we’ll know what the Orioles think, too.
Wieters made $5.5 million last year and Davis made $3.3 million. Here’s a prediction: they are both going to get handsome raises in 2014, no matter if they settle or if they end up in an arbitration hearing next month.
Wieters and Davis are two of five current Orioles who are eligible for arbitration. The other three are pitchers Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter and Troy Patton.
Right-hander Bud Norris also was arbitration-eligible, but he agreed to a $5.3 million deal with the Orioles on Thursday, according to multiple sources.
The arbitration process is often confusing for fans (and baseball writers, too). The bottom line is that once a player has completed three years of major league service, he is eligible for salary arbitration in the next three offseasons before he can enter free agency (sometimes a player can get four years of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent at the end of his sixth season, but that just muddies the simple explanation right now).
Ultimately, what this stage means is that player is still under club control, but a selected independent panel could decide his salary for the upcoming season.
Clubs have until noon Friday to reach agreements with their arbitration players before the sides officially exchange salary numbers – those figures usually end up in the public domain a few hours later.
The sides can continue to negotiate as January progresses, but if a deal cannot be agreed upon, a three-member arbitration panel will choose one salary number or the other during a hearing some time in February. That decision is binding.
Arbitration hearings can be unsavory – no one likes to hear about their faults – and many teams and players work to avoid them if possible. Former Orioles top executive Andy MacPhail never took an arbitration case to a hearing.
The Orioles have not gone to arbitration since they won against Brad Bergesen in 2012. Their last hearing before that was in 2006 – when they beat Boras and Rodrigo Lopez.
In fact, the Orioles have an exceptional track record in arbitration. The club is 7-0 when led by general counsel H. Russell Smouse and 9-1 since the team has been owned by attorney Peter Angelos. The loss came against starting pitcher Ben McDonald in 1995, with Boras representing McDonald.
Given the potential earning power of Boras’ marquee Orioles’ clients, Davis and Wieters, it wouldn’t be surprising if one or both ended up in a hearing. The two sides will have a few more weeks to work out a deal, however.
For your peace of mind: Wieters and Davis can’t elect free agency until after the 2015 season.