When salary arbitration figures were exchanged a few weeks ago, and a handful of Orioles didn’t come to an agreement, all that was out there was the team's perspective on how it arrived at the players' figures.
This weekend at FanFest, the point of view of the players will be available. There’s probably a common theme for Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Caleb Joseph: they want to be paid what they feel they deserve.
For Gausman, eligible for arbitration for the first time, this seems easy. Forget that he shuffled between the minors and majors in his first few years, losing service time that cost him a raise sooner. But he also spent time starting and relieving.
And then there’s his stats for most of 2016 not matching up to his peripherals. Sure, he went 9-12, but was in the top 10 in the American League in strikeout rate (8.72 per nine innings) and second in strand rate (81.2 percent).
Though he hasn’t made an All-Star Game and has 12 fewer starts than Chris Tillman did by the time he first reached arbitration, Gausman has a lower ERA (3.97 to 4.28), lower WHIP (1.283 to 1.386), plus better walk and strikeout rates.
Gausman filed for $3.55 million, and the team filed at $3.15 million.
Brach’s case is a little different. His All-Star appearance and the corresponding first half were superlative, but he fell off in the second half. The Orioles will say their position of a $2.525 million salary not only represents more than double his $1.25 million, but is fair considering the overall picture.
Brach and his side will likely cite a knee injury for his downturn in second-half performance and say he’s worth the $3.05 million they filed at. They’ll say his 10 wins were sign of his importance to the team, and while he doesn’t have the saves to warrant the kind of huge spikes relievers usually get, there could be some validity to reliever wins in this case.
And with Joseph, the man who probably endured the most unfortunate season in baseball history last year, the difference between the team’s $700,000 and $1 million probably comes solely from his 2016 performance. For a catcher playing once a week, suffering a testicular injury that cost him a month, and not hitting a home run or driving in a run, a massive raise is probably hard for the Orioles to agree to.
Joseph’s side will argue that he's been valuable enough over the long haul to warrant the raise. The Orioles will want to reduce their risk on Joseph, as the salary becomes guaranteed on Opening Day but he would only be owed one fifth of it if he’s cut far enough in advance in spring training.
Every bit of salary flexibility will help for a team with another record payroll on the books, but Joseph is probably justified in asking the team not to weigh his 2016 so heavily into the proceedings at the expense of the rest of his career.
So if they all so choose, there could be a common theme this weekend to their explanations as to why the process got to where it was. Or, they could choose to say nothing and let their representatives do the talking at the hearing. It will certainly be a suggested topic of conversation from each, though.