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What Friday's arbitration deadline means for O's

@JoeTrezz
January 9, 2020

The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, but the Orioles already did most of their heavy lifting earlier this winter. What was once a seven-player arbitration-eligible class has been whittled down significantly through trades of Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy and the December signing

The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, but the Orioles already did most of their heavy lifting earlier this winter. What was once a seven-player arbitration-eligible class has been whittled down significantly through trades of Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy and the December signing of Richard Bleier to a one-year contract.

That leaves the Orioles with three unsigned arbitration-eligible players heading into Friday, all of whom figure to play key roles on the 2020 team. Here is everything you need to know about one of the most important dates of the offseason:

What is Friday’s deadline?

Friday is the day clubs must exchange figure with their remaining arbitration-eligible players for the 2020 season. The Orioles previously decided to tender contracts to these players in December; Friday’s deadline sets the stage for further negotiation, and eventually a possible arbitration hearing to determine what the player’s salary will be.

When is it?

1 p.m. ET.

What happens if the club and player can’t agree on a salary figure?

The club and player can agree on a salary at any point prior to an arbitration hearing ruling, but if no deal is struck by Friday’s deadline, both sides must exchange figures, with the club and player each stating a salary they believe is warranted for 2020. A hearing is then scheduled for February. If no settlement is reached by the hearing date, the case is brought before a panel of arbitrators. That panel hears deliberations and then selects one of the salary figures for the player.

When do those hearings take place?

Feb. 3-21.

What is arbitration eligibility?

Generally, players who have three or more years of Major League service time become eligible for salary arbitration if they do not already have a contract for next season. After six years of service time, players not already under contract become free agents.

Who's eligible on the Orioles?

Entering the offseason, the Orioles had a seven-player class: Villar, Bundy, Mychal Givens, Trey Mancini, Bleier, Miguel Castro and Hanser Alberto. Villar and Bundy were traded, and the Orioles signed Bleier to a one-year, $915,000 contract prior to December’s non-tender deadline. Castro avoided arbitration on Thursday, settling with the Orioles at $1.05 million plus awards bonuses, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. That leaves Givens, Mancini and Alberto as Baltimore’s remaining arb-eligible players. All but Givens are arb-eligible for the first time.

Can a player’s salary be cut in arbitration?

Yes, but only slightly. The maximum amount is 20 percent.

Who is set for the biggest raise?

Mancini is first-time arbitration-eligible and coming off a breakout 2019 campaign over which he was easily the Orioles’ best offensive player. He hit .291 with 35 home runs and an .899 OPS while earning roughly the league minimum. According to an estimate by Cot’s Contracts, he is likely to land a salary around $5 million.

What are the other projected figures?

Per Cot’s Contracts, Givens should land at $3.5 million, up from the $2.15 million he earned in 2019. Alberto is coming from the league minimum and is projected to earn $2.25 million, also according to Cot’s.

How do Villar and Bundy factor into this?

Together, Villar and Bundy are projected to earn nearly $15 million next season, according to Cot’s Contracts. The Orioles opted to trade (Villar to the Marlins, Bundy to the Angels) those financial commitments for a collective group of five pitching prospects they hope will bear fruit later in their rebuild.

What will this do to the Orioles' payroll?

All of this should add about $12 million to the 2020 payroll, bringing it to roughly $59 million. That represents more than a 60 percent decrease in the club’s Opening Day payroll in two years. The Orioles opened the 2018 season with an estimated $148 million payroll, and 2019 at around $80 million, per Cot’s. The current number is expected to grow only marginally, perhaps with the acquisition of a veteran free agent. Had Villar and Bundy been retained, the payroll would have been closer to $74 million.

What is Baltimore's arbitration strategy?

The Orioles describe themselves as a “file and trial” club, as most teams around the league are these days. “File and trial” is an unofficial term that means clubs treat Friday’s exchange figure date as a hard deadline; if the parties haven’t reached an agreement by 1 p.m. on Friday, the understanding is the club won’t negotiate one-year deals with that player any longer and will instead let the case go to the arbitration hearing. It is essentially a negotiating tactic, albeit a non-binding one.

How common are hearings?

For the Orioles, rare. And they rarely lose. Arbitrators have sided with the Orioles 11 times in 13 hearings since 1993, when Peter Angelos became majority owner. They haven’t gone through the process since 2017, when reliever Brad Brach won his case against the club. Before that, the club hadn’t lost a case since 1995. They’ve gone through the process just four times since 2011.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.