The Orioles offered no surprises in their decisions to exercise 2015 contract options for pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day on Thursday.
And as expected, the Orioles declined options for right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley, making both free agents. Of course, the organization continues to negotiate in hopes of reaching a long-term extension with the longtime outfielder, but Markakis will now receive a $2 million buyout. Hundley’s $5 million club option did not include a buyout.
After going 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA, Chen will make $4.75 million in 2015 as he’s been one of the Orioles’ most dependable starting pitchers with a 3.86 ERA in 86 starts over the last three seasons. The Taiwanese lefty originally signed a three-year, $11 million contract on Jan. 10, 2012.
The backbone of a strong Orioles bullpen over the last three years, O’Day — who will make $4.25 million next season — may have had the best season of his career in 2014 despite September struggles that crept into the postseason when he allowed four earned runs and two home runs in 2 2/3 innings. In the regular season, O’Day pitched to a 1.70 ERA in 68 appearances, but his 7.00 ERA in the month of September was concerning as he gave up three home runs to left-handed hitters.
The decision to pass on a mutual $17.5 million option for Markakis was expected, but assessing the 2003 first-round pick’s value is a tricky proposition with his offensive decline in recent years. The 30-year-old hit .276 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 642 at-bats this season, but he’s posted slugging percentages below .400 in each of the last two years.
Acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for relief pitcher Troy Patton in late May, Hundley hit .233 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. It was always considered highly unlikely that the Orioles would pick up his option with starting catcher Matt Wieters expected back from Tommy John surgery next season.
With Chen and O’Day officially in the fold for the 2015 season, the Orioles have 32 players on their current 40-man roster.
The following members of the 2014 40-man roster are now free agents: Markakis, Hundley, Alexi Casilla, Nelson Cruz, Kelly Johnson, Andrew Miller, Johan Santana, Joe Saunders, and Delmon Young.
Clubs have five days of exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents before other teams are allowed to make offers beginning on Nov. 4.