At mlbtraderumors.com, the proprietors have made a study of arbitration-granted salaries — which apparently has been fairly accurate — and they recently took a swing at the Orioles’ group.
The article pegs closer Jim Johnson at a $10.8 million yearly salary. That number would have to stick in the craw of Orioles fans who endured Johnson’s nine blown saves in 2013. However, Johnson has saved 50 games in consecutive seasons. Writer Tim Dierkes summarizes the issues with Johnson this way:
“[Johnson] led MLB in save opportunities each year. This year, in particular, his 84.7 percent success rate was pedestrian, ranking 23rd among those with at least 15 opportunities. There's an argument to be made that if Kevin Gregg, Brad Ziegler or Ernesto Frieri received 59 opportunities this year, they would have saved 50 games as well. That's not to say Johnson is a bad reliever. … Any team would be happy to have him in their bullpen in a late-inning role. The problem is the salary inflation brought about by saving 101 games over the last two seasons.”
Yes, that inflation is an issue, but you can make the argument it’s more risky to commit a multiyear deal to a reliever — a position notorious for having pitchers who suddenly lose it — than for any other player.
The article puts first baseman Chris Davis at $10 million, a jump of more than $6.6 million. That’s what a league-leading 53 homers and 138 RBIs will do for you.
And what about catcher Matt Wieters? Despite a drop in batting average (.249 to .235) and an even bigger fall-off in on-base percentage (.329 to .287), Wieters basically maintained his homer and RBI totals (23-22 and 83-79, respectively). That’s in addition to his Gold Glove standard behind the plate. So put him down for $7.9 million.
Of course, these numbers are just educated guesses, and the players may never reach arbitration if the O’s work out contracts before. Also, keep in mind that the largest salary awarded in arbitration is $10 million, reached by Alfonso Soriano in 2006 and Ryan Howard and Francisco Rodriguez in 2008.
Yes, that same Francisco Rodriguez. What did we say about the risk in multiyear deals for relievers?