Long before Saturday's midnight nontender deadline, the Orioles agreed to pre-arbitration deals with relievers Matt Albers and Cla Meredith on their 2010 contracts but did not offer a contract to Brian Bass, who now becomes a free agent.
Bass, a 28-year-old right-hander, went 5-3 with a 4.90 ERA in 48 appearances in 2009 while serving as a long man out of the bullpen. The Orioles, who now have two open spots on their 40-man roster, have invited Bass back on a minor league deal.
"It really has nothing to do with performance," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "Brian gave us everything we had hoped for. It's more of a question of roster management."
Even with their recent trade of Chris Ray, the Orioles have a ton of right-handed relief options, leaving Bass as the odd man out.
"It's always disappointing. Basically, when something like this happens, the team is saying they don't want you anymore," said Bass, who said he will consider all his options, including the Orioles' offer. "It was exciting to be part of the rebuilding they were doing, but I guess I'll look at it as a fresh start."
Both Meredith and Albers were arbitration-eligible and candidates to be nontendered, but MacPhail opted to offer them contracts. The signings of the relievers leave the Orioles with just two arbitration-eligible players, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and outfielder-designated hitter Luke Scott.
Albers and Meredith will come to spring training in two months and compete for jobs in the Orioles' Opening Day bullpen.
Albers, 26, went 3-6 last season with a 5.51 ERA over 56 appearances. Acquired from the Houston Astros in December 2007 as part of the Orioles' five-player return for star shortstop Miguel Tejada, Albers was one of the team's most effective pitchers in 2008 before he was sidelined with a torn labrum.
He chose to rehabilitate his shoulder injury and not have surgery, and made it through the entire 2009 season without a trip to the disabled list.
Used primarily in the sixth and seventh innings, Albers struggled to find consistency and was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk three times during the season. His conditioning was also questioned by manager Dave Trembley.
Meredith, 26, was acquired from the San Diego Padres on July 19 for infielder and pinch-hit specialist Oscar Salazar. He did not factor in a decision in 29 appearances for the Orioles, compiling a 3.77 ERA and allowing just two earned runs in his last 17 appearances spanning 15 innings.