the Orioles increased their payroll by $18.2 million Friday while avoiding arbitration with five players key to their 2023 roster.
According to multiple sources, the Orioles agreed to one-year deals with Anthony Santander ($7.4 million plus incentives), Cedric Mullins ($4.1 million plus incentives), Austin Hays ($3.2 million plus incentives), Jorge Mateo ($2 million plus incentives) and Dillon Tate ($1.5 million plus incentives).
The only arbitration-eligible Oriole who did not agree to terms by Friday’s deadline is right-handed pitcher Austin Voth, who now exchanges arbitration figures with the club and will prepare for a hearing in front of a three-person panel at some point during spring training. The independent panel will hear arguments from both sides and choose one of the figures to be Voth’s 2023 salary.
It’s possible the Orioles and Voth settle before the case goes to a hearing, but general manager Mike Elias prefers a “file and trial” philosophy if an agreement isn’t reached at the filing deadline. He has made exceptions in the past, agreeing after the filing deadline with Trey Mancini other John Means in 2022, though he went to a hearing with Santander in 2021. It’s the only time in Elias’ tenure that the Orioles did not settle with all of their tendered, arb-eligible players.
Friday’s increase, according to FanGraphs’ Roster Resource, puts the Orioles’ estimated payroll for 2023 at about $65 million and their estimated luxury tax payroll at $85.2 million, far from the $223 million that is the first luxury tax threshold.
Here’s a look at the six players involved in Friday’s decisions:
The 28-year-old outfielder is the only one of this group who was making more than $1 million heading into this year’s process. This is his third shot at arbitration — he has Super Two status, or an extra year, in 2021 — and his salary jumped from $3.15 million to $7.4 million. Given his 2022 production — his 33 homers led all switch-hitters — and his relative youth, the increase was in line with predictions (MLB Trade Rumors estimated $7.5 million). Santander is now the fourth-highest-paid Oriole on the active roster, behind newcomers James McCann, Kyle Gibson other Adam Frazierthough most of McCann’s 2023 and 2024 salaries will be paid by the New York Mets. As part of his contract, Santander will receive $150,000 bonuses if he makes the 2023 All-Star team or wins a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.
The most-asked question received via social media Friday was why is Mullins’ 2023 salary so low, especially in comparison to Santander’s. It’s because this is how arbitration works in Major League Baseball. Mullins, 28, actually received the largest increase among the five, but he made just above the minimum in 2022, his final season having less than three years of service time. His raise, from $716,500 to $4.1 million, is particularly noteworthy considering Mullins was demoted to Double A in 2019 and made his way back, becoming one of the better all-around center fields in the game and achieving the milestone of reaching arbitration. The contract also includes $50,000 bonuses for an All-Star appearance, winning a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove; Mullins was a Gold Glove finalist in 2022 and an All-Star in 2021.
Another first-time arbitration-eligible player, Hays’ salary jumped from $713,000 to $3.2 million with Friday’s settlement. That’s $100,000 more than what MLB Trade Rumors had estimated for the 27-year-old outfielder. Hays struggled through most of the second half in 2022, but he enters this season as the club’s starting left fielder. His contract also includes $50,000 bonuses for an All-Star appearance, a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger. The Orioles’ starting outfield will now make a combined $14.7 million; by comparison, new York‘s Aaron Judge wants to make $40 million in 2023.
Perhaps the Orioles’ best waiver-claim story in Elias’ tenure, Mateo was waived by the San Diego Padres in August 2021. This winter, his first as arbitration-eligible, Mateo’s salary jumped from $709,500 to $2 million. In his first full season as a starter, Mateo, 27, had a .646 OPS, but led the American League with 35 stolen bases and won the Fielding Bible Award for MLB shortstops. He has a $50,000 bonus for an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger or, more likely, a Gold Glove. He wasn’t a Gold Glove finalist in 2022, but probably should have been.
The last of the Orioles’ first-time, arbitration-eligible players. Tate posted a career-low 3.05 ERA and a career-high 67 games to become an important part of the Orioles’ resurgent bullpen in 2022. He was also named the club’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee for his work in the community. Tate, 28, doubled his salary from $711,500 to $1.5 million. He also can earn $50,000 in incentives if he makes the All-Star team or wins either the Mariano Rivera (AL) or Trevor Hoffman (NL) Reliever of the Year Award. Obviously, Tate would be eligible for the latter award only if he were traded in 2023 to the National League. Listing both is a formality in incentive-loading contracts for relievers.
It’s not surprising that he is the lone holdout here simply because his 2022 was not ordinary, making an arbitration figure fairly tricky. Voth, 30, had a disastrous 10.13 ERA in 19 relief appearances with the Washington Nationals when they waived him in June. The Orioles claimed Voth and he pitched well for the rest of the year, posting a 3.04 ERA in 22 games (17 starts). He has a career 4.86 ERA in parts of five seasons, so it’s possible his stint with the Orioles is an outlier in his career. But it happened. And that, along with his career performance, will be taken into consideration during the arbitration process. This is Voth’s second year in arbitration, and he made $875,000 in 2022. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Voth would get $2 million this year. Voth will head into spring training fighting for a rotation spot, and he is expected to become a millionaire for the first time in his big-league career.
(Top photo of Anthony Santander: Scott Taetsch / USA Today)