O's prevail in Santander arb hearing (source)

February 5th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles prevailed in their arbitration case against this week, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand on Friday, resulting in a $2.1 million salary for Santander in 2021. Santander had filed for $2.475 million, leading to the O's having their first arbitration hearing of the Mike Elias era.

The resolution with Santander came after the O’s agreed to deals with five other arbitration-eligible players and cut ties with two others rather than tender them contracts. Previously, the club last went to an arbitration hearing with reliever Brad Brach in 2017.

The ruling still resulted in a hefty raise for Santander, who was first-time arbitration-eligible. Santander earned roughly $570,000 in 2020, though the actual figure was prorated for the shortened 60-game season.

Now with his 2021 salary set, the question shifts to: Will Santander earn it for the Orioles?

The switch-hitting right fielder hasn’t been immune to trade rumors in recent weeks, coming off a season when he broke out to hit .261 with 11 homers and a .890 OPS in 37 games. Santander, 26, is cost controllable for two more seasons through arbitration and seems to be entering his prime, having improved both offensively and defensively since arriving in the big leagues for good in June 2019. Orioles officials have spoken both about Santander as the kind of player to build around, and they have made it clear they’ll continue listening on essentially anyone in trade discussions besides their top prospects.

Santander projects as Baltimore’s everyday right fielder and probable No. 2 hitter. His emergence as a capable defender in right field has the O’s planning on shifting Trey Mancini to play first base full-time going forward.

The move puts the Orioles’ payroll at a shade over $56 million heading into 2021, though that number could increase slightly if several non-roster invitees earn an Opening Day roster spot with the team. In any event, more than half their payroll remains earmarked for players no longer with the team or relegated to bench roles: $21 million for Chris Davis and $10 million for Alex Cobb, who Baltimore traded to the Angels on Tuesday. Santander is one of only three players on the current roster earning at least $2 million this season.

The O’s have reduced payroll consistently since Elias was hired in 2018 to steer their current rebuild, from $148 million in ’18 to $80 million in ’19 and $64 million in 2020.