BALTIMORE -- Baseball's free-agent pool will expand in the wee hours of Friday morning, as the deadline for teams to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players under their control is 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday. Should a team opt to not tender a contract, that player would become a free agent, a scenario that is only likely for one Oriole: right-handed reliever Matt Albers.
Baltimore has six players who are facing arbitration: Albers, Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Adam Jones. The O's avoided arbitration with Albers last winter by signing him to a one-year deal worth $680,000, and he pitched to a 4.52 ERA in 62 games in 2010.
Typically, players who are candidates to be non-tendered are arbitration-eligible and stand to be awarded more in arbitration than their team deems them to be worth. According to baseball's collective bargaining agreement, when a team tenders contracts, it can't cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned last season in salary and performance bonuses, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons.
The 27-year-old Albers showed that he is capable of being an effective Major League reliever, although consistency remains a problem. He pitched to a 6.75 ERA in the first month of the season, only to follow it up with a 2.70 mark in May and a 6.94 ERA in June. Albers' best month was July, when he posted a 1.93 ERA, allowing just four runs over 18 2/3 innings.
Relying mostly on his sinkerball, Albers has Major League stuff. But given the wealth of available arms this offseason, the Orioles could opt for other alternatives or they could try to re-sign Albers at a lower cost. Non-tendered players can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts than the ones previously stipulated, although it's hard to imagine Albers coming back at a significantly lower price.
The Orioles, like most teams around baseball, will try to come to an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players and avoid going to a hearing. On the flip side, the organization will also be looking at other teams' non-tenders as potential fits. While it's rare, impact players like David Ortiz, Matt Capps and John Buck were all non-tendered at one point, and given that Baltimore has money to spend, it's another useful way of procuring players who have become too pricey elsewhere.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.