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.

Red Sox want to trade Jackie Bradley Jr.

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Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox are actively trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. In fact, the Mets were discussing such a trade with the Mets before they ultimately acquired Jake Marisnick from the Astros last week.

The Red Sox have made it no secret that they plan to reduce payroll. They’re currently above $218 million, about $10 million above the competitive balance tax threshold. Bradley is projected to earn $11.5 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

While Bradley continued to play above-average defense, his offense has left a bit to be desired. He has an aggregate adjusted OPS of 90 over the past three seasons (100 is average), matching his mark of 90 in 2019 specifically. Bradley hit .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs, 62 RBI, and 69 runs scored in 567 plate appearances.

Since an acquiring team would likely be on the hook for most or all of Bradley’s salary, the Red Sox wouldn’t get much in return in a trade. With the Mets out of the picture, the Cubs and Diamondbacks are a couple of teams that could match up with the Red Sox on a trade involving Bradley.