Schmuck predicts the payroll will be around $100 million
There's a pretty good chance the Orioles' payroll will be above $100 million by the end of the team's last arbitration hearing in February.
The Orioles are facing the only downside to developing a broad base of young major league talent. They entered this offseason with the highest number of arbitration-eligible players in the major leagues at the same time that top stars Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are due multi-million-dollar raises under their long-term contracts.
Markakis will get a $3 million bump to $15 million in 2013 and Jones will get a $2.35 million raise in the first year of his six-year contract extension, but that's just the beginning. Matt Wieters and Jim Johnson are both up for big raises in arbitration, as are Jason Hammel and Chris Davis. Throw in a $750,000 raise for Wilson Betemit and arbitration increases for Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton and Nolan Reimold and estimates range as high as $24 million in increased payroll without adding any big-dollar players from outside the organization.
The payroll space created by subtracting Reynolds' 2012 salary and those of other departed players (most notably reliever Kevin Gregg) still leaves the Orioles with an estimated payroll increase of more than $10 million before anybody starts talking about what it would cost to re-sign free agent outfielder Nate McLouth or pitcher Joe Saunders.
If the Orioles sign one of those two at a reasonable price, it would put the team very close to $100 million in payroll, which probably is the club's salary budget. It is, after all, kind of a big round number.
That would explain why Reynolds didn't fit, but it might not satisfy the masses if the club fails to make any significant improvements during the winter. If ever there was a time to justify pulling an additional $10 million or so out of the improving revenue stream (on top of that organic increase), this would appear to be it.
The other explanation, of course, might be that Duquette has big plans for the Winter Meetings, which are about to begin in Nashville. He's got pitching to trade and there are teams out there with bats to sell.