Pay sav­ings adding up for O’s from July player sell­off

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

The Ori­oles’ main Oc­to­ber pur­suit seems to be find­ing a way to spend the sig­nif­i­cant amount of in­ter­na­tional sign­ing bonus pool they amassed in part be­cause of their July trades with the pur­suit of Cuban am­a­teurs Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa and Vic­tor Mesa Jr., plus their work­out buddy Sandy Gastón.

But a sec­ond, longer-last­ing ef­fect of those trades is com­ing into fo­cus.

MLB Trade Ru­mors this week is­sued their ar­bi­tra­tion fig­ure pro­jec­tions for play­ers who qual­ify for raises in 2019, and the Ori­oles’ rel­a­tively short list was notable.

Ac­cord­ing to the site’s pro­jec­tions, which will be used as a bench­mark across the in­dus­try and the me­dia un­til real fig­ures are agreed upon, the Ori­oles will be on the hook for $6.44 mil­lion in raises to a to­tal of six play­ers. (All present-day salary fig­ures via Cot’s Con­tracts.)

Jonathan Vil­lar, in his sec­ond year of ar­bi­tra­tion, would jump from $2.55 mil­lion

to $4.4 mil­lion. In­fielder Tim Beck­ham, in his third year of ar­bi­tra­tion as a Su­per Two player, would be bumped from $3.35 mil­lion to $4.3 mil­lion.

Dy­lan Bundy, who made $1.64 mil­lion be­cause he was signed to a ma­jor league con­tract as an am­a­teur, would get his first ar­bi­tra­tion raise to an es­ti­mated $3 mil­lion. My­chal Givens’ first ar­bi­tra­tion raise would go from the min­i­mum of $566,500 to $2 mil­lion, while ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing vet­eran Caleb Joseph would be get a pro­jected raise from $1.25 mil­lion to $1.7 mil­lion in his third time through the process. Jace Peter­son would be owed $1.3 mil­lion through ar­bi­tra­tion af­ter his off­sea­son con­tract with the New York Yan­kees called for him to make $900,000. Those six play­ers would ac­count for $16.7 mil­lion, though there are a few non­tender can­di­dates if the Ori­oles feel they can get sim­i­lar pro­duc­tion for less money. Four other play­ers are guar­an­teed money: right-han­ders Andrew Cash­ner ($8 mil­lion) and Alex Cobb ($9.5 mil­lion), out­fielder Mark Trumbo ($12 mil­lion) and first base­man Chris Davis ($17 mil­lion). In ad­di­tion to that $46.5 mil­lion, that group also has $13.5 mil­lion in salary de­ferred, though it’s un­clear how that’s ac­counted for in the Ware­house, and the previous regime didn’t re­ally have an­swers on that front.

That means 10 play­ers will make an es­ti­mated $63.2 mil­lion, and if the rest of the ros­ter is at or near the min­i­mum salary of Ori­oles start­ing pitcher Dy­lan Bundy is el­i­gi­ble for an ar­bi­tra­tion raise to $3 mil­lion af­ter mak­ing $1.64 mil­lion this sea­son. ap­prox­i­mately $550,000, that’s roughly an ad­di­tional $8.25 mil­lion for a to­tal of $71.45 mil­lion spent on present ma­jor league pay­roll.

How did the Ori­oles end up be­gin­ning the off­sea­son with a pro­jected Open­ing Day pay­roll that’s 48 per­cent of last year’s ($148.57 mil­lion)? That re­quires go­ing back to the July 31 trades of Kevin Gaus­man, Dar­ren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop — all of whom were un­der con­tract for 2019, and in Gaus­man’s case, be­yond.

The Ori­oles en­tered the sea­son know­ing that if things went side­ways, they’d be in a po­si­tion to trade ex­pir­ing con­tracts such as those of Manny Machado, Zach Brit­ton and Brad Brach. Adam Jones de­clined his trade, but the rest went within 10 days af­ter the All-Star break.

Yet the other two trades — Gaus­man and O’Day to the At­lanta Braves and Schoop to the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers — came right down to the wire. The Ori­oles got a to­tal of seven play­ers, in­clud­ing Vil­lar, right-han­der Luis Or­tiz and rookie-ball in­fielder Jean Car­mona, from the Brew­ers, and re­liever Evan Phillips, in­fielder Jean Car­los En­car­na­cion, catcher Brett Cum­ber­land and left-han­der Bruce Zim­mer­mann from the Braves, plus $2.5 mil­lion in in­ter­na­tional sign­ing bonus slots. If there’s not as much up­side in those trades as you’d hope for con­trol­lable play­ers, con­sider that Gaus­man was still owed ap­prox­i­mately $1.87 mil­lion, O’Day $2.66 mil­lion and Schoop $2.83 mil­lion for this year alone, sav­ing an es­ti­mated $7.36 mil­lion in present salary.

O’Day has $9 mil­lion in salary guar­an­teed for 2019 (with $1 mil­lion de­ferred, and the Braves took the to­tal of $3 mil­lion in de­ferred money from 2016-2018, too), and the MLBTR pro­jec­tions have Gaus­man and Schoop ex­pected to make $9.2 mil­lion and $10.1 mil­lion, re­spec­tively. Schoop’s strug­gles af­ter the trade and a lack of a role with the Brew­ers make that a steep price and opens the pos­si­bil­ity of a non­tender, but the Ori­oles likely wouldn’t have been in that po­si­tion un­less they were par­tic­u­larly cold.

What the Ori­oles put them­selves in po­si­tion to do with that flurry of July 31 trade ac­tion was to shave an es­ti­mated $28.3 mil­lion off next year’s pay­roll, and likely an­other $11 mil­lion to 12 mil­lion for Gaus­man’s fi­nal year of salary ar­bi­tra­tion in 2020.

But from a busi­ness stand­point — es­pe­cially with next month’s hear­ing on the Mid-At­lantic Sports Net­work rights fees dis­pute with the Washington Na­tion­als call­ing into ques­tion how much rev­enue the Ori­oles will get from their tele­vi­sion net­work go­ing for­ward — chop­ping over a quar­ter of their salary com­mit­ments off the books in one swoop makes things a lit­tle more palat­able for the club. When for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette an­nounced the club’s re­build in earnest af­ter they traded Machado, he said re­sources would be di­verted from ma­jor league pay­roll to up­grad­ing other facets of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, from in­ter­na­tional and pro scout­ing to an­a­lyt­ics. In the near­est term, this is what that looks like.

Is that sup­posed to as­suage a fan base that might be dis­ap­pointed by the trade re­turns and is pin­ning its hopes on the Ori­oles sign­ing the Mesa broth­ers? Cer­tainly not. But the ar­bi­tra­tion num­bers es­ti­mated this week paint a much clearer pic­ture of why the Ori­oles might have been in­clined to make those trades.

KARL MER­TON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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