The Orioles have not gone before an arbitration panel with a player since prior to the 2006 season, but with potential hearing dates approaching, it’s becoming more likely that that trend will be broken.
According to multiple sources, the Orioles have tentative hearings scheduled with right-handed starter Jeremy Guthrie on Monday, Feb. 6, with swingman Brad Bergesen on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and with center fielder Adam Jones on Friday, Feb. 17. All are scheduled for mornings at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Guthrie is the first on the slate for the Orioles and seemingly is the most likely to go before the three-person arbitration panel. Guthrie, who was 9-17 with a 4.33 ERA and made $5.75 million in 2011, has proposed a $10.25 million contract for 2012 while the Orioles countered with $7.25 million. The panel will decide one number or the other.
This will be Guthrie’s third and final year of arbitration; he and the team agreed to terms the previous two times. However, $3 million is a considerable chasm -- the fifth-largest gap between teams and MLB players who could still head to a hearing.
The Stanford-educated Guthrie, a players association board representative, has always been interested in the business side of the sport. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he and the club went through the hearing process in his last opportunity to experience it.
And it could end up as a battle of two heavyweights.
The Orioles have not lost a hearing since Ben McDonald in 1995 and are 6-0 when led by club counsel H. Russell Smouse. But Guthrie is represented by Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, one of the more successful agencies in arbitration. CAA’s victories include the 2008 benchmark award of $10 million for Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.
CAA also represents Jones, who is in his second year of arbitration. The 26-year-old center fielder, who made $3.25 million in 2011, submitted a $7.4 million salary for next season after hitting .280 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs. The Orioles countered with $5 million.
The club has expressed interest in potentially extending Jones’ contract, but the sides have not engaged in any extension talks.
Bergesen, in his first year of arbitration, asked for $1.2 million and the Orioles presented $800,000. It’s not a large gap, but the Orioles considered nontendering the 26-year-old righty after he went 2-7 with a 5.70 ERA in 2011. So, even a slight difference could prove to be contentious enough for a hearing. Regardless, if Bergesen loses, he still would nearly double his 2011 salary of $434,000.
Previous club president Andy MacPhail avoided arbitration hearings, believing that criticizing a player in front of a panel in an attempt to secure a less expensive contract was counterproductive to the ultimate goal of getting that player to perform to his highest capabilities the following season.
New executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette doesn’t necessarily subscribe to that theory. In fact, the last time the Red Sox went to a hearing -- and won -- was in 2002 with pitcher Rolando Arrojo while Duquette was Boston’s GM.