Five of the Orioles' seven arbitration-eligible players
reached agreement with the club
on 2018 contracts Jan. 12. Two, right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, did not.
The Orioles have a few weeks to negotiate a salary for Gausman and Schoop ahead of arbitration, and they could use the time to secure their All-Star second baseman for several more years.
Schoop, 26, has asked for $9 million in 2018. The Orioles countered with $7.5 million. That shouldn't be hard to bridge. Meanwhile, Gausman has asked for $6.225. The Orioles' figure is $5.3 million.
In 2017, Schoop's first year of arbitration eligibility, he made $3.475 million and easily reached agreement with the club.
After career-bests of 32 home runs and 105 RBIs to go along with a .293 average, there's been talk that the club would try and lock him up with a long-term deal.
For several years, there's been chatter around the club that Schoop would be far easier to extend than third baseman Manny Machado. Now, perhaps the conventional wisdom is about to be tested.
Schoop is extraordinarily popular in the clubhouse and with fans. He signed with the Orioles as a 16-year-old prospect from Curacao in 2008, and a decade later, he's exceeded all the team's expectations.
If he stays with the team for, say at least five more years, Schoop could be considered the best second baseman in team history.
His steady improvement offensively since his 2014 rookie year has thrilled the team, and his friendly rivalry with Machado, who failed to make the All-Star team in 2017 while Schoop did, has been entertaining.
With Machado's Oriole future so much in doubt, it would seem to make sense for the team and Schoop to consider an extension, and it would give the fans, who are so hungry for positive news from the team, something to be happy about.
Under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, the Orioles have never extended a player in his second year of arbitration. Schoop isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season.
But, an extension could give the team some certainty in the infield for a few years. First baseman Chris Davis is contractually bound to the Orioles through the 2022 season, and shortstop Tim Beckham won't be eligible for free agency until after 2020.
A five-year contract extension negotiated over the next few weeks would buy up Schoop's final two years of arbitration eligibility and three years of free agency. It would also allow Schoop a shot at free agency when he's 31 -- after the 2022 season.
Not only have the Orioles never extended a player who was still eligible for arbitration under Duquette, but they've signed only one star, center fielder Adam Jones, before he was eligible for free agency.
The Orioles signed Jones for six years and $85.5 million in May 2012, six months before he would have been a free agent, and that deal has worked out wonderfully.
An extension for Schoop wouldn't be without precedence in team history. In 2009, the Orioles extended right fielder Nick Markakis, who was three years from free agency, for six years and $66 million.
That, too, was a good deal for the Orioles, and an extension for Schoop could be a better one.