The clock is winding down to Friday’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and the Orioles must decide whether to tender contracts to 14 players on their 25-man roster.
The largest looming decision is whether the Orioles will tender a contract to first baseman Mark Reynolds, who could command a deal in the $9 million range through the arbitration process.
While the Orioles have yet to make an official decision regarding Reynolds, it has become increasingly clear that the Orioles will non-tender Reynolds and allow him to become a free agent.
The sense is that the club still holds interest in Reynolds, but is willing to allow the 29-year-old to test the free-agent market with hopes they could eventually sign him for less.
The Orioles declined Reynolds’ $11 million club option for 2013 last month and paid him a $500,000 buyout.
Reynolds, who flourished defensively after he moved to first base in May, slumped early in the season before hitting 15 of his 23 homers in the final two months of the season. Reynolds also tied a club record with seven homers against the Yankees over the season.
But it’s become clear that while the Orioles like Reynolds, his toughness and the way he fits in the clubhouse, they’re not willing to risk the hefty raise he could receive through arbitration.
The Orioles’ payroll will already increase mightily because several players will receive significant raises through the arbitration process, including catcher Matt Wieters, closer Jim Johnson and outfielder/DH Chris Davis, which will likely put the club’s payroll over $90 million – and that’s without Reynolds.
-- Major League Baseball announced playoff shares for the various teams that made the postseason, and the Orioles awarded 54 full shares of $34,825.61 each to players and on-field staff for reaching the ALDS. To someone who is making millions of dollars, an extra $35,000 is a nice Christmas bonus, but isn’t life-changing.
However, don’t underestimate the allure that playoff bonuses hold for non-players such as coaches (and athletic trainers, etc). One well-respected coach a couple years ago admitted off the record that he chose another team over the Orioles because, though the salaries were somewhat similar, there was a much better chance he could get a playoff bonus with the other team. When you consider that the San Francisco Giants’ share for winning the World Series was a record $377,000 (and the runner-up Detroit Tigers’ individual share was nearly $285,000), it’s easy to see why that can make a huge difference.
So now that the Orioles have a coaching position open (at third base), candidates will notice that they are a playoff team with potential postseason shares in the offing.
-- Right-hander Brandon Erbe has signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, ending his eight season run in the Orioles’ organization. Erbe, a McDonogh grad, so badly wanted to be an Oriole and the club really wanted that hometown story to come to fruition.
But consistent injuries quashed that dream. Erbe, who turns 25 next month, got as far as Triple-A Norfolk in 2010, but couldn’t stay healthy long enough to take the next step.
Erbe was taken in the third round of the 2005 amateur draft, the first under former amateur scouting director Joe Jordan. That one was packed with plenty of guys that the organization was excited about including top pick Brandon Snyder, supplemental first-rounder Garrett Olson and another local product, Chorye Spoone. Ultimately, the only player from that draft that has remained in the organization and could help the Orioles now and in the future is second-rounder Nolan Reimold, who missed most of last season due to a neck injury that required surgery.
Perhaps the best pick of that draft was 16th rounder David Hernandez, who was the key to the Mark Reynolds trade with Arizona in the 2010 offseason.
-- The Orioles have purchased the minor league contracts of two independent league relievers. Left-handed reliever Logan Mahon, who played for the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League, and right-handed reliever Chase Johnson, who pitched for the Amarillo Sox of the American Association, both signed with the Orioles, according to press releases from their respective leagues.
Mahon was 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA with 30 hits and 25 strikeouts in 35 2/3 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round pick by the Rockies in 2011, but pitched in only five games at the rookie league level that season. Johnson, a 21st-round pick by the Phillies in 2009, was 5-5 with a 3.66 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings this past season. He spent three seasons in the Phillies system, reaching as high as low Class A.
Under Duquette, the Orioles have shown they’re willing to tap the independent leagues for players. This season, outfielder Lew Ford and left-hander Rich Rundles both began the season year in the independent Atlantic League before signing minor league deals. Ford finished the season with the Orioles
-- Former Orioles bench/third base coach Willie Randolph will be on Joe Torre’s staff for the U.S. squad in this year’s World Baseball Classic. Randolph, who will coach third base for the U.S., didn’t coach last year after not having his contract renewed by the Orioles before the 2012 season. Good to see Randolph getting another chance to coach for someone.