The Orioles are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.
Eligible For Free Agency (6)
- Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee were signed as free agents to one-year deals totaling $15.25MM plus incentives. Ideally, Orioles minor league player of the year Joe Mahoney will be ready to take over at first base in 2012.
- Mike Gonzalez, signed as a closer at the cost of $12MM and a draft pick, seems to be third in the pecking order in an improved Orioles bullpen. He's in need of a healthy year.
- J.J. Hardy will be eligible for free agency, probably a year later than he thought he'd be. Right now he's headed to the DL for a strained oblique; Hardy hasn't had 500 plate appearances in a season since '08. Though Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins may also be on the free agent market, Hardy should be fairly popular. His backup Cesar Izturis is also eligible for free agency.
- Justin Duchscherer hopes to make his Orioles debut on April 21st. He's battling hip and back issues.
Contract Options (1)
- Koji Uehara: $4MM option vests with either 55 appearances or 25 games finished. Though his elbow started barking during Spring Training, Uehara still has a good chance of meeting one of the requirements.
Arbitration Eligible (11)
- First time: Robert Andino, Brad Bergesen, Jake Fox (close to projected Super Two cutoff), Alfredo Simon (if he's activated early enough)
- Second time: Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Jim Johnson, Josh Rupe
- Third time: Jeremy Guthrie, Jeremy Accardo
- Fourth time: Luke Scott
A few of these players will fail to accrue enough service time to be arbitration eligible or will be non-tendered or released. Jones, Guthrie, and Scott are the three cases that will be worth watching. Guthrie and Scott could cost $9MM each, and Jones around $6MM. It's hard to say at this point whether Scott will be a non-tender candidate.
2012 Payroll Obligation
The Orioles have a 2012 payroll obligation of about $36MM for 2012 according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, with Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, and Mark Reynolds leading the way. Assuming Uehara, Jones, Guthrie, Scott, Pie, and Johnson are retained, they'll be in the $69MM range – about $18MM short of the 2011 Opening Day payroll. The Orioles should again have payroll space to work with, especially if one of the more expensive arbitration eligible players is traded.