It’s been a pretty quiet offseason for the defending American League East champions so far this winter. The Baltimore Orioles, who finished the 2014 season with a 96-66 record, have done more subtracting than adding, as the team has watched Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis find new homes. After signing a one year contract last winter, Cruz enjoyed a 40 home run season in 2014 and subsequently cashed in on the free agent market. The 33-year old signed a 4 year, $57 million deal with the Seattle Mariners in early December. Cruz’ departure wasn’t a surprise considering he signed a one year pillow contract with Balitmore, however Nick Markakis’ was a shocking revelation. Up until this offseason, the 30-year old had spent his entire 9 year career in Baltimore where he established himself as steady major league outfielder. A free agent for the first time this winter Markakis was given a 4 year, $44 million deal with the Atlanta Braves. While the departures of both Cruz and Markakis are big blows to the O’s lineup, there is still a little over a month for third year general manager Dan Duquette to figure out how to patch up his roster. In a weak pitching division, the Orioles still boast a formidable rotation and a solid bullpen; both of which finished in the top 5 in ERA and innings pitched in the American League last season. The Orioles will also benefit from the healthy returns of young third baseman Manny Machado and elite backstop Matt Wieters, who played a combined 108 games in 2014. While the Orioles could stand pat and still compete in the East, adding one more power hitting outfielder couldn’t hurt.
- The Red Sox and Craig Breslow came to terms on a new one year, $2 million deal over the weekend. Breslow, who endured a dreadful 2014 season in which he posted an ERA close to 6.00 in 60 games, figures to slot into Boston’s vacant lefty relief role. The 33-year old is a season removed from posting a sub 2.00 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched. (Source: Red Sox agree to bring back left-handed reliever Craig Breslow to a one year,$2 million deal)
- Andover, Massachusetts native Ryan Hanigan didn’t hide his excitement about joining his hometown team. While the 34-year old has spent 8 seasons as a major league backstop, he’s always fantasized at the prospect of joining the Red Sox. Likewise, Boston has had the defensive minded Hanigan on their radar for some time. Therefore, Boston jumped at the opportunity to obtain Hanigan once the San Diego Padres made him available. Along with Christian Vazquez the duo will make for a solid defensive pairing behind the plate. (Catcher Ryan Hanigan embracing the chance to come home)
- While the Red Sox seem set with their current rotation, the team has continued to monitor the market surrounding right handed starter James Shields. The 33-year old veteran is coming off his eight straight 200+ innings season in which he posted a 3.21 ERA. Shields figures to net a deal in the neighborhood of 5 years, $110 million. Along with the Red Sox, the San Fransisco Giants appear poised to make a run at signing the veteran. (Giants, Red Sox still in picture for James Shields)
- With the early arrival of Pablo Sandoval and the recent departure of Will Middlebrooks, it’s clear that upgrading third base was the Red Sox top priority this offseason. Sandoval, who inked a 5 year, $95 million pact this winter, will bring a much needed lefty presence to the Sox order and play solid defense at the hot corner. In signing the 28-year old, Boston cast aside the idea of starting utility man Brock Holt or prospect Garin Cecchini. (With Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox make third their first priority)
- Tweet of the day: Hanigan seems ready to roll.
Damn, Ryan Hanigan is mega prepared for this conference call. Already breaking down Masterson's splits and Buchholz's pitch mix.
— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) December 20, 2014