Outfielder Austin Hays has won his arbitration hearing against the Orioles, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. He’ll earn the $6.3MM figure his camp submitted this coming season rather than the $5.85MM salary for which the team filed. Hays is represented by the MAS+ Agency.
Hays, 28, has been a part of the Orioles’ organization since being drafted in 2016. He received a few proverbial cups of coffee to start his major league career but has established himself as a solid regular in the past three years. Going back to the start of the 2021 campaign, he’s appeared in 420 games for the O’s. His 6% walk rate is subpar but he’s limited strikeouts to a 21.6% clip while hitting 54 home runs. His combined .261/.313/.439 batting line translates to a wRC+ of 108, indicating he’s been 8% better than the league average hitter.
Defensively, Hays is a capable center fielder but doesn’t get to play there often thanks to the presence of Cedric Mullins. Most of his work has come in left field, where Outs Above Average is not too fond of his work, but Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved both consider him to be strong there. FanGraphs has considered him to be worth about two wins above replacement annually in that time, though Baseball Reference is a bit more bullish, with the latter using DRS as opposed to OAA.
He first qualified for arbitration last winter, with he and he club avoiding arb by agreeing to a salary of $3.2MM. Going into this winter, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected him for a bump to $6.1MM in 2024. He and the club couldn’t agree prior to the filing deadline and both sides submitted figures pretty close to that projection. In the end, the arbiters sided with the player’s camp, so he’ll get a slightly higher bump.
He’ll be eligible for arbitration again in 2025 before he’s slated for free agency. It’s possible that the club’s outfield picture will change a lot between now and then. Anthony Santander is in his final season before hitting the open market, but the club’s loaded farm system has already seen young players like Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers make their major league debuts. Mullins is on the same arb schedule as Hays, slated for one more pass before free agency after 2025.
The O’s initially had five players without an agreement in place after the filing deadline, though they later avoided arbitration with Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez. Now that the Hays case is solved, they have two more decisions to come on Ryan O’Hearn and Jacob Webb. O’Heard filed at $3.8MM and the club at $3.2MM while Webb filed at $2.4MM to the club’s $2.2MM.