Orioles have calls to make on hitters this winter

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The Orioles took care of one key piece of business last week, signing shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year extension through 2017. They’ll have some decisions to make on the rest of their lineup this winter, though.

– Nelson Cruz, signed to a one-year, $8 million deal last winter, is a free agent.

– Nick Markakis can be brought back on a $17.5 million option (which includes a $2 million buyout) or the team could negotiate a new deal with him.

– Chris Davis is arbitration eligible after earning $10.35 million this year.

One imagines the Orioles will work something out with Markakis, who has been in the organization since the team picked him seventh overall in the 2003 draft. The soon-to-be 31-year-old Markakis is no longer a star, but he did have a better season offensively and defensively this year than in 2013. Ideally, the two sides could do a two- or three-year deal at a lesser salary than the option is worth.

Related: Royals complete sweep of Orioles in ALCS

Unless owner Peter Angelos really loosens the purse strings, retaining both Cruz and Davis seems unlikely. Cruz established new career highs with 40 homers and 108 RBI this year, but he’s 34 and a liability defensively in the outfield. He’ll probably ask for a four-year deal worth at least $15 million per season. Davis, nearly the AL MVP in 2013, probably won’t get much of a raise in arbitration after struggling and getting suspended for Adderall. Since it’d just be a one-year deal, the Orioles should keep him and hope for the best.

Fortunately, the Orioles’ pitching staff, Andrew Miller excepted, will return intact. Five of Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez will comprise the rotation, and Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter will all be back in the pen. Top prospect Dylan Bundy, who spent this year rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, could also help next summer.

With Matt Wieters and Manny Machado due back healthy, the Orioles have the potential to be better next year than they were in winning the AL East this season. They’ll almost surely enter the spring as the favorites in the AL East no matter what the Red Sox and Yankees do.

Rays place Austin Meadows on 10-day injured list with thumb sprain

Austin Meadows
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Rays outfielder Austin Meadows has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right thumb sprain, per a team announcement Sunday. No concrete timetable has been given for his return to the lineup just yet, but he’s scheduled to meet with a hand specialist on Sunday as the Rays try to determine the extent of his injury.

Meadows, 23, suffered the sprain in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox. He lined a two-run triple into the right-center field gap — one of a franchise-record four triples that the Rays recorded in the game — but slid awkwardly into third base and jammed his right thumb in the process. He didn’t appear to be in obvious pain following the hit, however, nor was he removed from the game at the time.

Prior to the setback, Meadows carried a hefty .351/.422/.676 batting line with six homers, 19 RBI, and a 1.097 OPS through his first 83 plate appearances of 2019. He was replaced by Guillermo Heredia in right field for Sunday’s series finale and will likely lose a few starts to Avisaíl García as well.

In a series of corresponding moves, right-handed reliever Jake Faria was optioned to Triple-A Durham, infielder/outfielder Andrew Velazquez and righty reliever Emilio Pagán were recalled from Triple-A, and reliever Hunter Wood was placed on the paternity list. Second baseman Joey Wendle was also reinstated from the 10-day injured list after rehabbing a left hamstring strain and is scheduled take over the keystone during the Rays’ matinee against the Red Sox on Sunday.