Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette will have around $60 million coming off the books from this past season's payroll, and he'd given every indication that he will be able to reinvest that money into players for next season.
But he will first have to account for some hefty arbitration raises for some key players, including third baseman Manny Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
According to projections released by MLBTradeRumors.com, the Orioles should pay $20.64 million in raises to its seven arbitration-eligible players, leaving about $40 million for the club to spend in free agency as it attempts to rebuild its starting rotation.
Given how lucrative the starting-pitching free-agent market can be, especially considering the thin market that exists this offseason and the constant need for starting pitching around the game, that's not necessarily much.
Keep in mind that the Orioles' four-year, $50 million deal with Ubaldo Jiménez stands as the team's most lucrative deal awarded to a free-agent starting pitcher, and that deal paid him an average of $12.5 million a year, not taking deferred money into account.
But this is the world the Orioles have found themselves living in over the past few years – accounting for hefty arbitration raises for key homegrown players while still attempting to improve the team through free agency and trades. This offseason, that gets even more difficult.
Machado and Schoop should receive raises north of $5 million, and Machado's projected salary of $17.3 million next season — his last before he is eligible for free agency — would make him the third-highest paid player on the roster, trailing first baseman Chris Davis ($21.119 million) and just behind center fielder Adam Jones ($17.333 million). Machado is projected to receive a $5.8 million raise after making $11.5 million last season.
According the MLBTradeRumors.com projections, Machado's $17.3 million for next year would be the third-highest salary for an arbitration-eligible player in 2018, trailing only the $20.7 million that Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and the $17.9 million that Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu are projected to make.
Coming off his first All-Star season, Schoop is expected to earn a $5.625 million raise in his second year of arbitration eligibility, elevating his salary to $9.1 million after netting $3.475 in his first year of arbitration eligibility. More than anything, that lucrative raise suggests a player like Schoop, who can become a free agent after the 2019 season, has little reason to discuss a long-term extension with the club instead of playing out his remaining two years of team control.
This time last season, there was a question whether the club could carry two arbitration-eligible players making north of $15 million, and that's what Machado and closer Zach Britton were projected to reach. But Britton's injury-plagued season this year will likely mean he'll receive just a nominal raise for 2018 after setting a record for a reliever in his third-year of Super Two status last season, when he made 11.4 million. Britton is projected to make $12.2 million in 2018, which should solidify his future with the club for 2018.
All in all, the most interesting arbitration salary might be Brad Brach, another pending free agent after 2018. Brach is projected to make $5.2 million next season coming off a year in which he gained valuable experience as a big league closer in Britton's absence. He made $3.05 million last year, winning his arbitration case, after a 2016 season in which he established himself as a top-tier setup man and was selected for his first All-Star Game.
Brach didn't have the season he wanted – he hoped to have a little more consistency in the closer role. But the fact that he has closing experience now makes him more valuable than his salary would indicate, whether that's remaining with the Orioles or as an offseason trade chip, especially given the value the market placed on closers last offseason.