MLB Trade Rumors has released their annual arbitration projections for the 2022-2023 offseason. The following are their projections for the eligible Orioles’:
"Anthony Santander (4.162): $7.5MMCam Gallagher (4.073): $1MMAustin Voth (3.127): $2MMCedric Mullins (3.078): $4.4MMAustin Hays (3.057): $3.1MMDillon Tate (3.048): $1.5MMJorge Mateo (3.000): $1.8MM"
Most of these look like automatic locks, but one is a potential extension candidate, and two are potential trade candidates. What should the Orioles do with these seven players?
Cam Gallagher, Austin Voth, Dillon Tate, and Jorge Mateo should be easy locks to remain with the Orioles. The most surprising name on this list is Gallagher, the 29-year-old backup Catcher. Adding a backup Catcher should be one of the Orioles’ priorities this year, and Gallagher makes a good insurance case given his above average defensive profile. His bat is not quite there, but he’s decent enough as a backup/AAA Catcher, and being able to keep him at $1MM would be cheaper than adding a similar player in free agency.
Dillon Tate is almost an extension candidate after an impressive season out of the bullpen, but it was really a breakout year for Tate. Acquired via trade for Zack Britton in 2018, Tate never quite lived up to the expectations you would hope for, but that’s beginning to change. After an impressive 2022 season (3.05 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 0.991 WHIP), Tate is becoming one of the staples of the Orioles’ bullpen. At $1.5MM, he’s a steal.
How should the Baltimore Orioles approach the arbitration period?
Austin Voth broke out this year in a pretty impressive way. He might be forced out of the rotation this year, but $2MM for a depth starter is cheaper than the open market would charge. Voth is absolutely worth keeping around at that price.
Jorge Mateo was a bit up and down this year. A 3.3 rWAR player, Mateo is incredible on the bases (35 SB, 5.8 BsR) and with the glove (11 OAA). However, he hit just .221/.267/.379 with 13 HR. Improvements in his hitting would make him an extension candidate, but as it stands, his value is questionable. All things constant, Mateo should keep his job at SS, but he may become a very valuable bench player next year after some additional moves. Keep him.
Extend Cedric Mullins?
Cedric Mullins is everything Jorge Mateo is, except he can hit. He came back down to earth after his 2021 breakout season, but he hit .258/.318/.403 with a 104 OPS+, 34 SB, a 3.3 BsR, and 8 OAA. $4.4MM is pretty cheap for a player of Mullins’ caliber, but with another season like 2022, his arbitration value is going to keep increasing. Rather than entering a situation where the Orioles have to contemplate trading Mullins to save money, now is a good time to lock him up. Would Mullins accept something like a 5yr/$60MM? It’s a short-term raise, but it saves money long-term if he hasn’t reached his peak yet. This is a brief case for extending Mullins, but the time feels right. Before the Orioles start spending big money in free agency, locking up one of their cornerstones should be key. A 5-year deal would buy out his remaining arbitration years and extend him for two additional years.
What’s the deal with Anthony Santander and Austin Hays?
Santander feels like a bit of an odd man out with the Orioles. Hays provides value with his glove, and Mullins is a legitimate player. But Santander is a little too one dimensional. He hit .240/.318/.455 with a 117 OPS+ and 33 HR in 2022, but his -4 OAA was near the bottom of the league. He’s not a fast runner, and he doesn’t provide much value on the bases. With Kyle Stowers ready to start, someone has to go – and Santander feels like the one to move.
Well, what about moving Santander to DH? That’s a possibility, but how much are you willing to pay for a DH? $7.5MM isn’t bad, but with just two years left in arbitration, the Orioles will have to make a decision soon. There are plenty of prospects who could push Santander out of the DH spot as early as next year.
Maybe Santander is worth keeping around one more year. How about Austin Hays? Hays had a pretty disappointing season, but there’s no reason not to hold onto him. His bat didn’t progress this year, and his defense took a pretty big step back. At 27, Hays is still relatively young, and he’s shown his potential both with the bat and glove. However, Colton Cowser could be ready for the majors as early as May. With Mullins in CF and Stowers at one of the corner spots, maybe Hays is the one who needs to be pushed out. If one of these two outfielders needs to be moved to DH this season to make room for the rookies, Santander should be the one to stay – but he’s more expensive and likely offers more trade value than Hays.
One of Hays or Santander should be traded this offseason. The outfield isn’t big enough for Hays, Santander, Mullins, Stowers, and Cowser, and all but Santander provide defensive value. The Orioles aren’t in a place where they need to shed salary, so my choice would be to keep Santander as a DH and trade Austin Hays.