A slow-developing deadline day for the Orioles in negotiating with their seven arbitration-eligible players proved to be productive.
Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players came and went with the club far apart with several key players, including third baseman Manny Machado.
But as the afternoon progressed, the Orioles began completing one-year contracts with those players, inking deals with five of their seven arbitration-eligible players, including Machado, closer Zach Britton and setup man Brad Brach, all of whom will be entering their final seasons under team control before being eligible for free agency at the end of the 2018 season.
The Orioles also came to terms with first-year arbitration-eligible shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Caleb Joseph, who is entering his second of four arbitration years as a Super Two qualifier.
Last year, the club imposed the increasingly common “file-and-trial” stance in negotiating with all arbitration-eligible players, meaning it planned to take all unresolved cases to a hearing without further discussion. But this year, the club clearly engaged players well after the deadline in order to reach deals.
The Orioles doled out $10.38 million in raises to five arbitration-eligible players, a number that will increase by between $5.98 million and $8.405 million depending on the outcomes of the two remaining unresolved contracts. The team ended the day having exchanged salary figures with second baseman Jonathan Schoop and right-hander Kevin Gausman.
With trade rumors still swirling around Machado, he agreed to a $16 million base-salary contract that includes undisclosed awards incentives in his final season of arbitration eligibility. The deal was struck just hours after it appeared he was on course for an arbitration hearing. He received a $4.5 million raise from last season, when he earned $11.5 million.
Had it not been for the record $23 million deal that Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson received earlier in the day, Machado’s deal would’ve been the largest one-year contract received by an arbitration-eligible position player. The previous high was the $15.5 million deal signed by Prince Fielder before his final arbitration season with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.
The Orioles’ payout to Machado was just shy of the $17.3 million he was projected to make, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. Machado didn’t have his best season last year, especially in comparison to the numbers he had coming into his previous two arbitration-eligible seasons.
He struggled for most of the first half of the season, and his .259/.310/.471 slash line was well below his career average of .279/.329/.476. But Machado still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs for an Orioles team that finished last in the American League East.
In 2015 and 2016, Machado averaged 36 homers, 91 RBIs and an .869 OPS.
The Orioles also came to an agreement with Britton on a one-year, $12 million deal, a record for an arbitration-eligible reliever. The left-handed closer is likely out until at least June while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon suffered during an offseason workout last month. As a Super Two qualifier, Britton had four arbitration seasons to increase his salary.
He will receive a modest $600,000 raise coming off last year’s injury-plagued season, just shy of the $12.2 million he was projected to make in 2018. Even though he will miss much of the first half of the season, the Orioles were responsible for his salary once they tendered him a contract in December and can’t part ways with him since he was injured while doing baseball activities.
Brach, who is the leading candidate to serve as closer while Britton is out, agreed a $5.165 base salary for the upcoming season, according to an industry source. That is a $2.115 million raise from last year, when he was the closer while Britton was out with forearm and knee injuries. Brach’s deal includes an additional $100,000 in incentives.
Brach won his arbitration hearing with the Orioles last year, the first time the team was beaten in arbitration in 22 years, earning a $3.05 million salary.
Beckham, the nonwaiver trade deadline acquisition from the Tampa Bay Rays, will nearly quadruple his salary in his first full season with the Orioles, agreeing to a $3.35 million deal in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He made just $885,000 last season.
And Joseph, who lost his arbitration case and made just $700,000 in 2017, doubled his salary, receiving a $1.4 million deal for the upcoming season.
Schoop, the winner of last season’s Most Valuable Oriole award, filed to make $9 million in 2018, while the Orioles countered at $7.5 million for a difference of $1.5 million, according to USA Today.
Regardless of the outcome, Schoop will nearly double his $3.475 million salary from last season, when he had a breakout year with career highs in homers (32), RBIs (105), batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.503). He will be going into his second of three arbitration years, and is eligible to become a free agent after the 2019 season.
Gausman, who is entering his second of four arbitration years, went 11-12 with a 4.68 ERA in 2017, rebounding from a rocky start to set career highs in starts (34) and innings (186 2/3). Gausman was less than $1 million apart from the Orioles in his figures exchange, with him filing at $6.225 million and the team filing at $5.3 million, according to FanRag Sports.
Gausman’s case was unresolved after the figures exchange deadline last year, but he came to terms on a $3.345 million deal in early February to avoid arbitration.