FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles outfielder Mike Devereaux is looking for a $925,000 raise and pitcher Ben McDonald hopes to more than double his 1993 salary this year, according to salary arbitration figures released yesterday.
Three Orioles -- Devereaux, McDonald and reliever Alan Mills -- exchanged arbitration figures with the club yesterday, setting the parameters for possible salary arbitration hearings in February.
Devereaux is seeking a one-year, non-guaranteed contract worth million, a 31 percent raise over his 1993 salary of $3.025 million. The Orioles submitted a figure of $3.125 million, or a $100,000 raise. McDonald is looking for a one- year deal worth $2.85 million, which represents a whopping 233 percent increase over his $1.225 million base salary last year. The club isn't far behind, offering $2.5 million.
Mills is in a far lower income bracket, but he also could realize a small fortune because of his arbitration eligibility. He's asking for for a season in which he may become the Orioles' bullpen closer -- more than tripling his 1993 salary of $245,000. The club has countered at $500,000.
The arbitration process has been one of the driving forces behind baseball's salary spiral, but the Orioles have done a good job of staying out of it. The club has gone to arbitration with a player only once in the past 15 years, losing to pitcher Bob Milacki in 1992, and undoubtedly hopes to get these three cases settled outside the hearing room.
"You hope to reach an agreement," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said, "but you recognize that there always is a possibility that you'll go to a hearing."
To prepare for that eventuality, the Orioles have retained baseball consultant Tal Smith to work on their caseload.
The Orioles front office entered the off-season with 10 potential arbitration cases, but Hemond and his staff already have dispensed with seven of them.
The club has re-signed Brady Anderson, Mark McLemore, Leo Gomez, Jamie Moyer and Chris Hoiles and chosen not to tender contracts to relief pitchers Gregg Olson and Todd Frohwirth.
Players with three to six years of major-league service -- and some qualifying two-year players -- are eligible to have their salaries decided by an arbitrator if they are offered a contract by the Dec. 20 deadline. They must file for arbitration between Jan. 5 and 15, then exchange figures with their clubs through the players union and management's Player Relations Committee.
Negotiations may continue right up until the hearing date, but after the hearing takes place, the arbitrator must choose either the player's figure or the club's. There is no middle ground.
The small difference between the asking price and the offer for McDonald makes it appear likely his contract situation will be settled without a hearing. Mills also figures to avoid a showdown with the team at what could be a pivotal point in his career.
Devereaux settled out of court a year ago, but seems to be the most likely to take the team to a hearing. He got a tremendous raise after his 24-home run, 107-RBI performance in 1992, but his numbers tailed off considerably last year (.250, 14, 75).
Still, the club has been so concerned about his income potential that he has been prominent in trade talks throughout the off-season.
McDonald is a combined one game under .500 the past two seasons, but his solid all-around numbers have forced the Orioles to make a representative offer.
He is the only Orioles starter to go two straight seasons without missing a start, and last year ranked 12th in the American League with a 3.39 ERA.
Mills (5-4, 3.23, four saves) did not have the same kind of numbers that he produced during a breakthrough season in 1992, but he pitched well enough to come to spring training as a potential closer.
He pitched more than 100 innings in each of the past two years in middle and late relief.