We’ve had a lot of questions since the season ended on who will be back next year with the Orioles.
We don’t have a crystal ball. But I can at least give you a sense – contractually, anyway – where guys are. I may be leaving a few out, but we’ll address everyone you are concerned about.
Here are the club’s unrestricted free agents, meaning they become free agents as soon as the World Series ends and can begin negotiating with teams besides the Orioles on the sixth day after the World Series ends (in between they can only negotiate with the Orioles).
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Those are: Endy Chavez, Bill Hall, Nick Johnson, Nate McLouth, Joe Saunders, Jim Thome and Randy Wolf. The Orioles likely will make a run at McLouth, Saunders and perhaps Thome. The rest are likely gone.
The Orioles also have options on two players for 2013: A $1 million option ($100,000 buyout) on reliever Luis Ayala and an $11 million option for first baseman Mark Reynolds ($500,000 buyout). Ayala’s option is team friendly, so it’s likely it will be picked up.
Reynolds’ option, however, is pricey. The guess is that the Orioles will decline it. They have two other possibilities with Reynolds. He still has one year remaining in arbitration, so if the Orioles buy out the option, he could still remain with the club. But they likely would have to pay him around $9 million or so in arbitration (he made $7.5 million in 2012 and a pay cut would be highly unlikely). So the Orioles could non-tender him a contract by Nov. 30 and try to renegotiate a new deal with him.
Because they have so many young players who have at least three years of major league service time, but not enough for free agency (six years), the Orioles have 12 players eligible for arbitration this year. That means the players are under club control, but if they can’t agree to a contract, an arbiter will pick between two figures after both sides present their cases at a hearing.
The Orioles have until Nov. 30 to tender those players a contract. If they don’t, those players would become free agents (but could renegotiate with the Orioles as well as other teams). The key here is that if the Orioles want to keep these players, they can.
The list of arbitration eligible Orioles: Robert Andino, Chris Davis, Lew Ford, Jason Hammel, Tommy Hunter, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Omar Quintanilla, Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, Taylor Teagarden and Matt Wieters.
Two other Orioles, pitchers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton, do not yet have three years of service time but have more than two and are likely qualify for Super 2 status. Without going into the specifics of the formula, what it means is if Matusz and Patton qualify, they’ll get one extra year of arbitration eligibility (four years instead of three). This doesn’t affect how long they are with the team, just how much money they’ll make. The cutoff for Super 2 has not been announced yet; the sense is Matusz and Patton will both make it.
In that case, the Orioles could have a mind-numbing 15 players that would be arbitration eligible if Reynolds’ option is declined.
All of the rest of the Orioles fall into two remaining categories. They already have contracts for 2013 signed earlier (players such as Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Wei-Yin Chen, Wilson Betemit, etc.) or they have fewer than three years big-league service and can have their contracts unilaterally renewed by the Orioles (young or inexperienced players such as Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Pedro Strop, Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty).
Hope that answers all your questions.