A couple of things deserve attention in the way the Baltimore Orioles’ offseason has gone, in the wake of the World Series.
There wasn’t too much excitement in the fact that seven players became free agents the day after the Series, none of whom were unexpected. The list read: outfielders Nate McLouth and Endy Chavez, pitchers Joe Saunders and Randy Wolf, designated hitter Jim Thome, first baseman Nick Johnson and infielder/outfielder Bill Hall.
The team followed that up by declining the $11 million option on Mark Reynolds‘ contract for 2013. He had made $7.5 million last year and is arbitration-eligible this winter. Arbitration is well-known for its history of awarding players the higher of the two figures submitted to the arbitrator, and Reynolds may have been likely to get a bump to $9 million.
That’s a lot of cheese for a player whose bat had a one-month season. Even his current salary was a lot for that. He leaped from 8 home runs to 22 during August and a bit of September, including a run of 7 homers in 6 days. But he lost it just as suddenly as he had found it, whatever “it” was, because after early September, he hit only one more the rest of the season.
He hit .221 with an on-base percentage of .335 and slugged .429, had 23 home runs and 69 RBIs in 135 games, His glove, as stellar as it was for August and September, had a two-month season. The last day for the club to tender him is November 30.
Arbitration figures are exchanged in January, and the hearing is in February. Historically, the Orioles have agreed on a mid-way point before the hearing, so the process doesn’t have a chance to produce acrimony on both sides. The other option is to work on a new, two-year contract for less money, so he doesn’t sign with another team and come back to haunt you. Not that I’d worry all that much, in his particular case.
This past weekend, Dan Duquette acquired second-baseman Alexi Casilla, who played for Minnesota last year. He brin
gs speed, having swiped 21 bases in 22 attempts. He brings an average in the .240-.250 neighborhood. He brings a little more competition for the second-base job, along with Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty and Brian Roberts, whose return to a serviceable state of health is a big “if.”
Casilla made a shade over $1.3 million last year, and Andino made $1.3 million. If Andino should win a potential arbitration case, the roughly $2 million he would be awarded is a lot of cheese for a .211 hitter who only hit behind the runner when it was an accident. If he lost his case, even the lower of the two submitted figures would be a raise.
I would never argue that Andino isn’t a nice guy or a pro, and I would defend anyone’s right to say that. But even by paying him the relative pittance of $1.3 million, if I’m Duquette, I need a little more bang for the buck than a .211 average.
If he hits that low because regular playing time exposes him too much, then it’s a lot to pay a utility player. Either way, hitting that low means you’re not getting on base enough to steal bases and contribute that way.
Added to that, Andino’s defense has often struck me as spotty, and opposing base stealers take advantage of his tendency to stand to the side of the bag and swipe the tag. Duquette makes more money to make these decisions than I do, and most of what he touched turned to gold last season, so four available second-base candidates should, as he suggested, be plenty.
Of those seven free agents, McLouth, Saunders and Thome are the three primary ones the team would want back if they wanted back.