Last offseason, the Orioles had eight players eligible for Arbitration raises and they managed to avoid hearings with six of the eight. From largest contract given, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Ryan Flaherty all agreed to terms, while Brad Brach and Caleb Joseph decided to state their cases in court.
Both hearings should have been a no-brainer in terms of who’s going to win each case.
Joseph had asked for $1MM, a would-be raise of $476.5K in 2017, coming off a season that saw him hit .174 in 49 games and not logging any RBI. Brach, on the other hand, asked for $3.05MM, a raise of $1.8MM, after his first All-Star season that saw him pitch to a 2.05 ERA in 79 innings (71 appearances).
The Orioles were notorious for winning Arbitration hearings, after-all, they hadn’t lost a case since Ben McDonald in 1995.
However, Brach’s successful 2016 season that saw him have career lows in ERA, FIP, WHIP, and BB/9, and career highs in wins, strikeouts and total appearances, led to the first victory against the Orioles in Arbitration hearings in 22 years.
Fast forward one year, and the Orioles yet again have two players that did not agree to the terms they were presented with and are preparing to have their case head to court.
And yet again, these cases should be a no-brainer as to who is going prevail.
One less player this year than last year, but in order of largest salary for 2018, Machado, Britton, Brach, Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph all avoided Arbitration hearings, while Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman are headed to court.
Kevin Gausman filed for $6.225MM, while the Orioles are countering with $5.30MM. Jonathan Schoop, on the other hand, had filed for $9MM and the O’s countered with $7.5MM.
Gausman, who turned 27 on January 6, pitched to an 11-12 record in 34 starts in 2017, the most of his career thus far. He also pitched the most innings of his career, 186.2 and set a career high for strikeouts, at 179.
However, his ERA skyrocketed from 3.61 in 2016, to 4.68, his batting average with RISP also increased 67 points from .200 in 2016, to .267 in 2017 and he matched his total pitches per at-bat from the previous season, at 4.11.
While Gausman’s run support (4.1) in 2017 was up from 3.6 the previous year, he was unable to build on the success he found in his final 12 starts of the 2016 season. From August 3 to October 2, 2016, Gausman allowed a 2.83 ERA in 76.1 innings and allowing opposing batters to hit just .250 off him. Yet, in his first 12 starts of the 2017 season, his ERA ballooned to 5.92 to start the season, allowing 39 earned runs in 59.1 innings.
The mid-point between Gausman’s filing and the team’s offering is $5.763MM, and that’s probably what his salary for the 2018 season will look like.
Jonathan Schoop though has every right to take the team to court, as he requests an increase in salary of $5.525MM from 2017.
Schoop, 26, has only improved as the years have gone by. Making his first All-Star appearance last season, he logged career highs in plate appearances (675), runs scored (92), hits (182), home runs (32), RBI (105), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.503).
His play at second base is getting better year-by-year, as his range-factor (put-outs plus assists multiplied by nine) per nine innings was the highest of his career to-date (5.04) and was 69 points higher than the league average. Going deeper into the sabermetrics, 93% of balls fielded at 2B resulted in outs, tieing 2014 and 2016 for best and he had more putouts (329) than any other season.
Under team control until the 2020 season, Schoop still has another year left of Arbitration. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the organization took a look at his performance this season and determined that he’s truly worth a buy-out of his final Arbitration year and a contract extension.
It’s a better idea for the team to buy out his final Arbitration year, and offer him a few more on top of that to avoid him – much like the direction Manny Machado is hading in – testing the free agent waters. A contract worth $75MM over five years, for a power-hitting second baseman who had the fewest errors committed in the league, and led the AL in putouts, assists and range factor per game, shouldn’t have an eye batted.
Discussions on terms of new contracts can still be discussed right up until the date of the hearing and even though it’s not a bad thing if they do, the Orioles should be prepared to take an L in Arbitration hearings, in back-to-back years.