The Orioles have 15 arbitration-eligible players. They won’t keep all of them, and will settle with at least some of them before they even file for arbitration.
While there are no major players scheduled for free agency, there are several the team has to keep. It would be in their best interests to sign a few of them to long-term contracts.
Five who the Orioles should sign long-term
1) Jim Johnson
Most teams are loath to sign relief pitchers to long-term deals, and there’s good reason.
Unlike position players or even starting pitchers, the number of consistently excellent relievers is very small.
The Orioles are betting that Johnson is going to be one of the few consistent ones. He has the mentality, work ethic and stuff to avoid the inconsistency.
Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, knows the history of relievers and while Johnson isn’t eligible for free agency until two years from now, it might be wise to
try and sign him to a three-year deal.
The Orioles could avoid two years of arbitration and a year of free agency. There isn’t any need to go longer than three years, but they shouldn’t want to go to arbitration with their player rep.
Johnson lives in Sarasota, Fla., is a favorite of Buck Showalter’s, and likes being with the Orioles.
The Orioles should seize this opportunity.
2) Matt Wieters
Wieters also lives in Sarasota, is a Showalter favorite as well, but has the Darth Vader of agents, Scott Boras.
The two-time All-Star catcher was renewed for just $500,000 by the team this year, a number that didn’t sit well with either Boras or Wieters.
He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time and because Duquette’s predecessor Andy MacPhail kept him in the minor leagues until late May 2009, Wieters won’t be a free agent until 2016.
The Orioles must make sure Wieters doesn’t get there.
It would be surprising if Wieters agreed to an extension that took away his free agent years this quickly, especially with Boras negotiating.
While the Orioles might want to offer a six-year deal as they did with Adam Jones, Wieters’ value will only increase the closer he gets to
They could start with a three-year deal to try and avoid arbitration and then see what Wieters’ requests are.
If there is a Wieters extension, it’s likely to come closer to spring training so Boras can gauge the market.
3) Jason Hammel
Hammel is also two years away from free agency, but he shows signs of being a staff leader. Showalter trusted him to start a playoff game after missing three weeks with a knee injury. Hammel’s maturity and innings-eating ability could be valued for a young staff.
Hammel could get a deal like Johnson, two years of arbitration and a year of free agency.
4) Mark Reynolds
Reynolds has an $11 million option for next season with a $500,000 buyout.
This one will be tricky. The Orioles have no viable in-house options for first base, and they’d be committing to Reynolds on the basis of the season’s final two months.
Reynolds did a fine job at first base. With a full season there, he’ll probably get even more comfortable and his power numbers would probably rise, too.
With an uninspiring group of free agents at first base, perhaps a three or four-year deal with Reynolds could work. He’d be a free agent next year, and the Orioles don’t really have anywhere else to go.
5) Darren O’Day
O’Day had a terrific season with a 7-1 record and a spectacular post-season. He’s two years away from free agency, but at $1.35 million last season, he was a bargain.
The Orioles will probably wait on him, but his value could skyrocket with another outstanding season.
Even though Davis and Wieters were the two biggest bargains on the Orioles. Davis like Wieters is three years away from free agency. There isn’t the premium on DHs that there is with catchers. He can wait, but if he has another 30-plus home run year in 2013, he may become pricey.