BALTIMORE -- MLB’s non-tender deadline serves as an opportunity for all 30 clubs to part ways with players, many of whom are typically eligible for salary arbitration and set to earn raises for the upcoming season. Ahead of Friday night’s deadline, there were 63 players non-tendered -- but none by the Orioles.
Baltimore agreed to terms on 2024 contracts with four players -- left-hander Keegan Akin, outfielder Sam Hilliard, infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder Ryan McKenna -- and tendered contracts to each of the other 32 players on its 40-man roster, 13 of whom are arbitration-eligible.
A player who agrees to terms or gets tendered a contract isn’t guaranteed a spot on the big league club -- or even assured of staying in the organization. The Orioles could still trade any of these players, and they may need to deal a few if they’re hoping to upgrade the pitching staff.
Let’s look at three of Baltimore’s big league players who could still be trade chips this offseason:
OF Anthony Santander
Like past offseasons, Santander could again be featured in plenty of trade rumors. Perhaps even more than other winters, considering the 29-year-old outfielder will become a free agent after the 2024 season.
The Orioles may need to clear room so that top outfield prospects Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad can both make their 26-man roster. A prime candidate to move would be Santander, who is projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $12.7 million in arbitration, which would make him the highest-paid player during general manager Mike Elias’ five-year tenure.
Of course, there are obvious reasons for Baltimore to keep Santander for 2024, when it will aim to capture a second straight American League East title. Santander has been among the O’s top hitters during his seven-year career, and he’s coming off a season in which he posted a .797 OPS and led the team in doubles (41), homers (28) and RBIs (95).
Santander could be the centerpiece of a trade package that lands a quality pitcher, but the subtraction of his offense may not be worth it to the O’s.
Odds of being traded: Unlikely
INF/OF Jorge Mateo
Mateo seemed like a possible non-tender candidate going into the offseason, but the Orioles agreed to terms with the 28-year-old for 2024.
He signed for $2.7 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
It will likely become increasingly difficult for Baltimore to find playing time for Mateo, though. Gunnar Henderson, the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year, gets starts at both shortstop and third base. Plus, more young infielders are rising through the farm system, including shortstop Jackson Holliday, MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect who could arrive in the big leagues in 2024.
If the O’s keep Mateo, he could be a valuable bench player because of his defense and speed. He won a Fielding Bible Award at shortstop in 2022, and he has racked up 67 stolen bases over the past two seasons.
Those are the same reasons why Mateo could be appealing to other teams. At this point, it seems like a toss-up whether he’ll be back in Baltimore, where he has been since getting claimed off waivers from San Diego in August 2021.
Odds of being traded: 50/50
INF Ramón Urías
Another player who could be squeezed out of the crowded infield picture is Urías. The 29-year-old was tendered a contract but has not agreed to terms for 2024, and he is projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $2 million, a significant raise from his ’23 salary of $734,700.
Urías’ biggest strengths are his defense and versatility. He won a Gold Glove Award at third base in 2022, but he can play well at any of the four infield positions -- including first base, which he added to his repertoire with seven starts in ’23.
Baltimore could use Urías in a utility role next season. Or that spot could belong to Joey Ortiz, the club’s No. 6 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 50 overall prospect. The 25-year-old is a strong defender who has shown quite a bit of offensive improvement in the Minors (including a .321/.378/.507 slash line over 88 games for Triple-A Norfolk this year).
If the Orioles believe Ortiz can overtake Urías, then the latter could be expendable. And if that’s the case, he could potentially be moved as part of a trade to acquire pitching this offseason.
Odds of being traded: Probable