Orioles may trade Matt Wieters or J.J. Hardy to create payroll flexibility

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With their eyes on the horizon, the Orioles are open to the possibility of trading catcher Matt Wieters or shortstop J.J. Hardy to create payroll flexibility, reports Steve Melewski of MASN. The O’s have some interesting situations to address in the near future including extending Chris Davis (a free agent after 2015) and buying out Manny Machado’s upcoming arbitration years (2016-18).

Wieters is arbitration-eligible for his second of three years, meaning he’ll be a free agent after the 2015 season. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $7.9 million salary for Wieters which will only climb next year, then will set the benchmark for the average annual value of a contract extension. It makes sense that the Orioles, who opened the 2013 season with a $92 million payroll, would explore a trade. Though Wieters has not lived up to the (perhaps unfair) hype that surrounded him as he made his way up through the Orioles’ farm system, he has been consistently reliable at a premium position.

On the other hand, Hardy is 31 years old and a free agent after the 2014 season. While he has been superb for the Orioles, he doesn’t factor in as a long-term piece, so making him available is standard fare. According to Baseball Reference, the only shortstops more valuable than Hardy since 2011 have been Elvis Andrus and Troy Tulowitzki, going by Wins Above Replacement.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.