The Orioles never doubted that Mark Reynolds was a valuable piece to last season's success.
But the $9 million Reynolds figured to make through the arbitration process simply didn't fit within the team's numbers crunch.
They already declined Reynolds' $11 million club option for 2013 -- instead giving the 29-year-old first baseman a $500,000 buyout -- and Friday night, as the midnight deadline to tender contracts came and went, the Orioles chose not to offer Reynolds a contract.
The move immediately made Reynolds, who distinguished himself as a fine defensive first baseman once he was moved there in mid-May, a free agent open to contract dialogue with any major league club.
Reynolds said he received a call from executive vice president Dan Duquette on Friday night, telling him the team was non-tendering him, but that "the light is still on." Reynolds said he was open to resigning with the Orioles as a free agent.
"I kind of saw it coming after the days leading up to tonight and there was no dialogue," Reynolds said. "I love Baltimore. I love the team and my teammates and the coaches. But I have to see what else is out there and be smart about things and see what other opportunities are out there."
The Orioles brass still holds interest in Reynolds, just not at the price tag he was likely to make through arbitration.
"Mark's meant a lot to us," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I like Mark. He's a tough competitive guy who posts up. We'll see where the offseason takes us. This is really just a step the club felt like it had to take.
"We'll go forward and Mark I'm sure will test everything out there and hopefully we can still talk about it," Showalter added. "We've talked about where we're comfortable with him and where we're not. If Mark comes back next year, I'd be excited about it. But we've got a lot of moving parts."
The Orioles entered the day with 14 arbitration-eligible players, and as of late Friday night, they had come to terms with second baseman Alexi Casilla, outfielder Steve Pearce and catcher Taylor Teagarden.
When the Orioles grabbed the 28-year-old Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins this offseason, the first thought was that it would be for one year, since Casilla was in his final year of arbitration before free agency next winter. But now the Orioles can have the second baseman back in 2014 if they want.
The sides avoided arbitration Friday when Casilla agreed to a one-year deal for 2013 that will pay him $1.7 million next season, an increase from the $1,382,500 he made in 2012.
But Casilla and the Orioles also agreed to a team option for 2014 that will pay Casilla $3 million if picked up (and $200,000 if the club buys it out), according to an industry source.
The club also non-tendered infielder Omar Quintanilla.
The nine remaining arbitration-eligible players -- Chris Davis, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Jim Johnson, Brian Matusz, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters -- were all tendered contracts by the midnight deadline.
The club also made a trade for 25-year-old infielder Yamaico Navarro, acquiring him from the Pirates for minor-league pitcher Jhondaniel Medina.
To make room for Navarro, the Orioles designated right-handed reliever Stu Pomeranz, who pitched well in his brief stint for the Orioles before being sidelined with oblique and back injuries, for assignment.
Later in the night, the Orioles declined to tender Pomeranz a contract, making him a free agent.
First baseman Joe Mahoney, the organization's minor league player of the year in 2010, was also claimed off waivers by the Miami Marlins. The 25-year-old Mahoney was designated on Wednesday when the team acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from Boston for cash considerations.
But the story of the night was Reynolds, who emerged as a fan favorite in the later months of the Orioles' first playoff season in 15 years.
Despite his development into a premier defensive first baseman, the Orioles believed that was too much to pay for Reynolds, whose offensive production regressed.
The streaky, high-strikeout Reynolds' home run (23) and RBI (69) totals were the lowest since his rookie year of 2007. He did cut down on his strikeouts in 2012: He struck out 159 times after averaging 208 strikeouts the previous four seasons.
Reynolds, who struggled at the plate through most of the season, suddenly became a fan favorite after hitting 15 of his 23 homers in the final two months of the season and playing sparkling defense at first.
The Orioles could have negotiated with Reynolds leading up to the tender deadline, but Reynolds said he didn't hear from Duquette until his call Friday night.
"There's definitely relief to know I'm officially a free agent," Reynolds said. "It's exciting. I'm still young. I think I have a lot of good years ahead of me. It's going to be an interesting time to be able to not have ties to any team and feel out the market and see what kind of offers I get."
For those Orioles were tendered a contract, arbitration filings and figures won't be exchanged until mid-January and hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun