Davis among four Orioles to avoid arbitration
The Orioles reached agreements on one-year contracts with first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters, right-hander Chris Tillman and left-hander Brian Matusz on Friday, according to multiple reports. The club has not confirmed the deals, which came before the 1 p.m. ET deadline to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players.
Six others, including closer Zach Britton, remain on track to go to arbitration hearings in February. However, teams and players can and often do continue negotiating up until that point. Baltimore hasn't actually gone to a hearing since winning its case against pitcher Brad Bergesen in 2012.
Davis and Wieters are both in their final year of arbitration eligibility, and they will be eligible for free agency after this season, while Matusz is in his second year and Tillman his first. Terms of their deals were not disclosed, but multiple reports indicate that Davis will make $12 million, Wieters $8.3 million, Tillman $4.315 million and Matusz $3.2 million. The deals for Davis and Wieters also include a variety of incentives, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Davis made $10.35 million last year, coming off a breakout 53-homer performance in 2013. But he endured a tough '14, batting .196/.300/.404 with 26 homers, 72 RBIs and 173 strikeouts over 127 games. In September, Davis was suspended 25 games after testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall. He missed the rest of the regular season, in addition to the O's playoff run. Davis, who turns 29 in March, will serve the final game of his suspension at the beginning of this season.
Wieters gets a small raise from his 2014 salary of $7.7 million despite playing only 26 games last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The 28-year-old hit .308/.339/.500 with five homers and 18 RBIs, making his third American League All-Star team.
Tillman has been a steady presence atop the Orioles' rotation over the past two seasons, making 67 starts and going 29-13 with a 3.52 ERA. The 26-year-old earned $546,000 last year, but he now gets the third-highest settlement for a first-time-eligible starting pitcher, behind only David Price and Dontrelle Willis.
Matusz gets a raise from $2.4 million following his second consecutive solid season as a full-time reliever. The former first-round pick, who turns 28 on Feb. 11, made 63 appearances and produced a 3.48 ERA with 17 walks and 53 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings. Left-handed batters hit .223/.277/.350 against him.
In addition to Britton, the O's remaining arbitration-eligible players are right-handers Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Tommy Hunter, outfielder Alejandro De Aza, outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce and infielder Ryan Flaherty.
Pearce's case is perhaps the most interesting, as the 31-year-old earned his first significant big league playing time last year and responded with a .930 OPS and 21 home runs in 102 games. Britton is eligible for the first time after taking over as closer and saving 37 games with a 1.65 ERA.