BALTIMORE — The Orioles agreed to a contract with reliever Richard Bleier for 2020, the team announced, allowing him to bypass the salary arbitration process ahead of the Monday evening deadline to agree to contracts outside that system.

Bleier, 32, returned from lat muscle surgery this year and struggled some but rounded into form as the season went along. Before the injury in 2018, he was one of the most statistically successful relievers in major league history, with a 1.19 ERA in his first 119 innings over three seasons.

A slow start in 2019 meant Bleier finished with a 5.37 ERA in 53 appearances, though it was a much more respectable 3.68 after the All-Star break. He also had some of the worst batted-ball luck on ground balls in the league, and after a dugout dustup with third base coach José David Flores, Bleier played in front of an infield that wasn’t shifted for the final month of the season and saw his results further improve.

His contract agreement was the Orioles’ first piece of business Monday, a day of action when it comes to players with at least three years of major league service time. They must either avoid salary arbitration with an eligible player, as they did with Bleier; tender the player a contract with the salary to be determined through the arbitration process; or elect not to tender that player a contract.

With infielder Jonathan Villar, who was projected to make $10.4 million according to’s system, the Orioles showed their hands by beginning the waiver process on what would be an expensive player in 2020. On the others, including Trey Mancini, Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens, and Hanser Alberto, the team must make a decision by 8 p.m. Monday.


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