With major league owners expected to institute a lockout later this week for baseball’s first work stoppage in over 25 years, the Orioles have retained the contractual rights to all six of their arbitration-eligible players for the 2022 season.
Ahead of the annual deadline to tender contracts that’s prompted the exits of Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy, and Hanser Alberto in recent offseasons, general manager Mike Elias agreed to 2022 deals with outfielder Anthony Santander and pitchers Paul Fry and Jorge Lopez to avoid arbitration. The Orioles tendered first baseman Trey Mancini and pitchers John Means and Tanner Scott, meaning they’ll proceed with arbitration with those three later this offseason.
Santander’s status carried the most intrigue with the switch-hitting outfielder struggling through an injury-riddled season in which he batted just .241 with 18 home runs and a .286 on-base percentage in 438 plate appearances. However, the 27-year-old is only a year removed from being voted the club’s most valuable player and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season, which prompted the Orioles to retain him on a reported $3.15 million deal for next season. Santander has hit 50 homers in 1,147 plate appearances dating back to 2017, but a career .290 OBP and a lengthy injury history are factors limiting his current trade value.
Expected to help anchor the bullpen after career seasons in 2020, Fry and Scott both struggled with respective ERAs of 6.08 and 5.17 last season. However, a club set to have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball could more than afford to retain the rights to two lefties who carry three more years of club control and have pitched well in the majors for stretches.
Lopez fared poorly with a 6.35 ERA as a member of Baltimore’s woeful starting rotation last season, but his lively right arm makes him an interesting candidate for the bullpen where he pitched to a 2.16 ERA in eight appearances before being shut down with an ankle injury in September.
Tendering Means ahead of the deadline was the easiest of the six decisions, but some wondered if the Orioles might consider moving on from Mancini, whom MLBTradeRumors.com projects to make $7.9 million in his final season before free agency. Of course, non-tendering the beloved Mancini would have been a disastrous move from a fan-relations standpoint, but that doesn’t mean the Orioles won’t explore trading him later this offseason or by the 2022 trade deadline if a contract extension isn’t in the cards for the stage 3 colon cancer survivor who turns 30 in March. Mancini batted .255 with 21 homers, 71 runs batted in, and a .758 on-base plus slugging percentage and played in 147 games in his heroic return to baseball last season.
In other roster news, the Orioles outrighted infielder Richie Martin to Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday evening. A former Rule 5 pick, Martin has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons, appearing in just 37 games and posting a .555 on-base plus slugging percentage.