Major League Baseball's deadline to tender contracts to players was 8 p.m. eastern time on Friday. In a surprise twist, the Orioles opted to cut ties with exactly zero of their 17 arbitration eligible players, agreeing to contracts with four and tendering contracts to the other 13.
For those who are wondering what all this means, here's a quick explanation. Every year, all 30 teams have to decide whether or not to tender a contract to every player on their roster eligible for salary arbitration. If a player is tendered a contract, they remain on the roster and the team and player negotiate a contract for the upcoming season, and they'll go to an arbitration hearing if they can't agree. If a player is non-tendered, that means they hit the open market as a free agent.
The Orioles decided to keep the whole gang around, at least temporarily, by tendering everyone a contract. Keegan Akin, Sam Hilliard, Ryan McKenna, and Jorge Mateo all agreed to contract terms for next year, while the remaining 13 arbitration eligible players were tendered a contract.
At the time of writing, it has not been reported the salary figure for McKenna ahead of next season. It has been reported that Mateo signed a contract for $2.7 million, Hilliard gets $800,000, and Akin receives $825,000.
The decision to stick with McKenna and Akin in the aftermath of their 2023 seasons are certainly interesting moves by Mike Elias and the front office. McKenna is a solid but replaceable defensive-first outfielder, so keeping him around with a plethora of top outfield prospects fighting for playing time is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.
To say Akin had a rocky year is an understatement. He was battling a back injury and averaged a whopping 13.3 hits per nine, posting a 6.85 ERA in 24 appearances. However, the Orioles probably looked at the 2.96 FIP and decided that Akin was a victim of bad luck and decided to keep him.
Another somewhat surprising move was the Orioles tendering a contract to Cole Irvin. His 4.42 ERA is almost exactly in line with his 4.43 FIP, so it's not like he was a victim of luck, he just had an underwhelming year. With no options to the minors left, he'll have to prove his worth to earn a spot out of spring training.
The Orioles tendering Mateo a contract makes sense, as he's an asset on defense and had strong showings in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. He's likely to be floated as a trade chip this offseason because of it, so this isn't a bad move.
Baltimore also tendered contracts to Danny Coulombe, Anthony Santander, John Means, Austin Hays, Ryan O'Hearn, Ryan Mountcastle, Jacob Webb, Cionel Pérez, Tyler Wells, Ramón Urías, Dillon Tate, and Cedric Mullins.
Out of that group, the only two that could have realistically gone the other way were Urías and Tate. Urías does still have trade value, so avoiding letting him walk for nothing could prove worthwhile. In the case of Tate, the Orioles are likely banking on him returning to 2022 form, as that was the last time he pitched in a big league game too.
In the end, it is a little surprising that the Orioles chose to hold on to some of these players. However, that's not the case with most of the roster, as plenty of the players tendered a contract were key contributors in 2023.
Now that the non-tender deadline has passed, the next big event on the offseason calendar is the Winter Meetings, scheduled for December 3-6 in Nashville. Lots of big moves happen at these meetings, and hopefully the Orioles have one or two up their sleeve.