Baseball’s annual deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players has been a painful period for the Orioles of late, with the occasion marking the departures of productive players like Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy, Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias in recent years.
This year’s deadline brought no such tumult as the team agreed to 2022 contracts with three of their arbitration-eligible players — outfielder Anthony Santander ($3.15 million), right-hander Jorge López ($1.5 million) and left-hander Paul Fry ($850,000) — while tendering contracts to proceed through the arbitration process with first baseman Trey Mancini and left-handers John Means and Tanner Scott.
For Santander, a second-time eligible player, and first-timers López and Fry, the deals allow them to avoid the arbitration process entirely and lock in their 2022 salaries.
Mancini, Means and Scott’s salaries will be decided later in the offseason, with the potential to agree on a deal before exchanging salary figures and possibly going to an arbitration hearing.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Mancini is projected to make $7.9 million, with Means projected at $3.1 million and Scott at $1 million.
Santander has an intimate experience with the arbitration process from the spring, when he and the Orioles had a hearing over what his 2021 salary would be. Santander filed at $2.45 million, while the Orioles filed at $2.1 million. The club prevailed, and this year, they reached an agreement to avoid that process entirely.
The deadline to tender contracts to such players was moved up from the end of this week to Tuesday evening, with ownership expected to lock the players out at midnight Thursday once the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
In keeping all six of their arbitration-eligible players in the fold, the Orioles kept what has long been the strength of their bullpen intact while also keeping cornerstone pieces in place. While Mancini has only one year remaining until free agency, he remains an important figure to the organization for his commitment to their rebuilding progress and how he fought to return for the 2021 season after missing all of 2020 with stage 3 colon cancer.
The remaining five arbitration-eligible players have three seasons left before free agency, and the Orioles hope to be competing for playoff spots by then.
The Most Valuable Oriole winner in the shortened 2020 season, Santander was entering the second of his four years of arbitration eligibility, with an extra year granted as he was close to three full years of service time at the end of 2020. While the cutoff to be eligible for salary arbitration is three full years of service time, the top 22% of players between two and three years of service time are eligible for an additional year.
As such, Santander has three seasons remaining before free agency and will be due raises in each one of them.
In 2021, he had a stop-and-start spring training due to oblique soreness, then missed a month with a sprained ankle suffered on April 20. While Santander had some productive spells, he ultimately never got going and ended the year with 18 home runs and a .720 OPS.
A former Rule 5 draft pick who satisfied the roster requirements for that in 2017 and 2018, Santander became a full-time player for the Orioles in 2019 and has 49 home runs with a .769 OPS in 240 games since.
Around the horn
Before Tuesday’s tender deadline, the Orioles announced that recently-claimed infielder Lucius Fox was lost off waivers to the Washington Nationals and reliever Brooks Kriske was released to pursue an international opportunity. The moves brought the Orioles’ 40-man roster to 38.
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Additionally, the Orioles announced infielder Richie Martin was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk, leaving the 40-man roster at 37.