Six O's players set to begin arbitration process

Six O's players set to begin arbitration process

Six O's players set to begin arbitration process
BALTIMORE -- With their major offseason moves behind them, the Orioles -- who would still like to add a veteran starter and some relief help -- will begin the process of negotiating 2011 salaries with their six arbitration-eligible players.

The O's declined to offer arbitration to reliever Matt Albers last month, effectively making him a free agent, but they will try to come to an agreement with Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, Luke Scott, Felix Pie, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones and avoid going to an arbitration hearing.

Teams and arbitration-eligible players can begin to file for arbitration on Wednesday -- and up until Jan. 15 -- in the first part of the process that determines players' salaries for the upcoming season. If teams and players don't reach an agreement by Jan. 18, they exchange salary figures. If the sides don't reach a deal by the end of the month, they schedule a February hearing that would take place in front of a panel of arbitrators who decide between the two proposals. Those hearings take place between Feb. 1-21.

Jones, Pie and Johnson are arbitration-eligible for the first time, while Scott and Guthrie -- both coming off strong 2010 campaigns that will equate to raises -- have been here before.

Hardy, whom the O's acquired from the Twins this offseason, earned $5.1 million with Minnesota in 2010, and the 28-year-old shortstop is arbitration-eligible one last time. Part of a revamped infield with third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Derrek Lee, Hardy was saddled with wrist and knee injuries and hit .268 with six home runs and 38 RBIs last season. He's likely to earn around $6 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility

Of the new trio, Jones is likely to get the biggest payout, as the Orioles saved a significant amount of money last winter when he was on the losing side of a three-way tiebreaker to determine whether he would receive Super Two status. It ultimately went to Cubs infielder Mike Fontenot, who had identical service time of two years, 139 days through '09, but more service time the previous season than Jones and Reds pitcher Micah Owings.

Clubs may unilaterally set the salaries of players who don't have enough service time to be in arbitration, and Jones -- coming off a Gold Glove season and All-Star selection -- made $465,000 in 2010. He hit .284 with 19 homers and 69 RBIs last season, and it's estimated he could command around $3 million in arbitration.

Johnson made $440,000 last season and is one of 20 players who achieved Super Two status this winter, meaning his Major League service time ranked in the highest 17 percent of players with less than the usual threshold of three years. Players with at least two years and 122 days of service were granted Super Two status this winter, which translated into a fourth year of arbitration eligibility instead of the usual three years. A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration under the usual rules.

Johnson went 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA over his first 9 2/3 innings before he was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and later placed on the Minor League disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Given that his injury was believed to be suffered in the Orioles' Opening Day series, the team officially transferred him to the Major League DL on May 28 and Johnson was activated prior to a series in Anaheim in late August. He pitched to a 1.62 ERA in his final 16 appearances.

Pie, who made $420,000 last year, missed the first half of the season with an upper back injury but put together a solid finish. In 82 games, the outfielder hit .274 with 15 doubles, five triples, five homers and 31 RBIs.

The Orioles have a recent history of avoiding arbitration, although they came close to going to a potentially contentious hearing with Guthrie last year. Scott, who is arbitration-eligible for the third time, avoided arbitration last January by signing a one-year, $4.05 million contract. Guthrie's case wasn't resolved until several days before his scheduled hearing, as the two sides agreed to a $3 million contract for 2010 on Feb. 12, just prior to the spring report date for pitchers and catchers.

In his second year of being arbitration-eligible, Guthrie went 11-14 with a 3.83 ERA in 32 starts in 2010, and he -- like Scott -- will command another pay raise for this season. The 31-year-old was the ace that anchored the Orioles' rotation, particularly in the second half, when he went 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA in his final 14 starts.

Meanwhile, Scott, voted the Most Valuable Oriole by the local media, hit a career-high 27 home runs and totaled 72 RBIs in 131 games. A streaky hitter most of his career, Scott put together a consistently solid 4 1/2-month stretch and finished with a .284 batting average and a .535 slugging percentage.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for 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.