6:25pm: Coulombe receives a $2.3MM salary, The Associated Press reports. That’s the midpoint of the respective filing figures. The 2025 option is valued at $4MM and comes without a buyout. Coulombe could push the option value as high as $4.925MM via escalators. The price would increase by $100K if he reaches 50 appearances this year, $50K apiece for his next five games, $55K each for his 56th-60th appearances, and $60K per game between 61 and 65 outings.
9:31am: The Orioles and left-hander Danny Coulombe have reached an agreement on a one-year deal with a club option for the 2025 season, the team announced. In doing so, the two sides avoided an arbitration hearing. Coulombe, a client of Elite Sports Group, had filed for a $2.4MM salary while the team countered at $2.2MM. He’d have been a free agent at season’s end, so the O’s are gaining an extra year of control over the southpaw with today’s agreement.
Coulombe, 34, proved to be an excellent low-cost pickup for Baltimore last winter. Acquired from the Twins in exchange for cash just days before the season began, he delivered 51 1/3 innings of 2.81 ERA ball in his first season with the O’s, striking out a strong 27.6% of his opponents against an outstanding 5.7% walk rate.
That marked the continuation of a late-career breakout that’s now seen the journeyman southpaw work to a collective 2.86 ERA over the past four seasons. It also represents a bounceback from an injury-marred 2022 campaign in which he posted a 1.46 ERA in a small sample of 12 innings with Minnesota but also walked an uncharacteristic 17% of his opponents. Coulombe missed the bulk of that season with a hip impingement but showed little to no ill effects in 2023.
Coulombe figures to slot back in as a setup man for manager Brandon Hyde, though he’ll be bridging the gap to a new closer in 2024. After star right-hander Felix Bautista underwent Tommy John surgery in October, the Orioles responded by signing free agent Craig Kimbrel to a one-year, $13MM deal. Kimbrel figures to close games for the O’s this season, with Coulombe, Yennier Cano and a healthier Dillon Tate among the current favorites for leverage spots in the seventh and eighth innings.
The option year being tacked on is significant for the Orioles. It’s relatively commonplace for teams to work out one-year deals with options of some kind even after figures are exchanged, but not necessarily with players who have five-plus years of service. Five-plus players tend to either prefer straight one-year deals or perhaps agree to a mutual option, which is largely a formality as mutual options are almost never exercised by both parties. It’s a compromise that effectively ensures the player he can reach the open market as was previously scheduled while also allowing the team to bend on a straight one-year deal that can then be used a data point in future arbitration cases. (The inclusion of an option of any kind disqualifies those agreements from being used in future negotiation of straight one-year arbitration deals.)
Coulombe, however, is older than the standard five-plus player and was perhaps more willing to surrender a free agent year as a result. He’ll lock in a salary that nearly doubles his modest career earnings of $2.89MM, and while next year’s option will surely be reasonably priced, it’ll give him the opportunity to remain in a setting where he clearly felt comfortable and where he’ll clearly have a good chance at being part of a competitive roster.
The Orioles exchanged arbitration figures with an MLB-high five players this year, but both Coulombe and fellow lefty reliever Cionel Perez have since agreed to one-year deals with options. Outfielder Austin Hays ($6.35MM vs. $5.85MM), first baseman/designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn ($3.8MM vs. $3.2MM) and righty Jacob Webb ($1MM vs. $925K) are all still unresolved, but presumably the team will continue looking into similar arrangements with that group in order to avoid a potentially contentious hearing.