By this date last year Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke, Billy Butler and Michael Cuddyer had all signed free agent deals.
This year has been quiet in comparison. Virtually all of the top free agents are available, and in the meantime Marco Estrada’s $26-million contract remains the most lucrative open market deal signed since the season ended.
Why the wait? Agents involved in the relief market are curious to see what Darren O’Day will earn, yet that contract only impacts one subset of free agents. The World Series didn’t end until November, which arguably delayed the entire off-season by a few days.
Next Wednesday’s non-tender deadline typically infuses the free agent market with depth and leads to a flurry of minor trades. In the meantime there’s the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, typically a quiet period around MLB.
Chances are, the pace of the off-season will pick up within the week. Around the AL East, nearly every team still has plenty of work ahead:
Both the rotation and the bullpen could use reinforcements, which should place the focus on pitching even after deals for Estrada and Jesse Chavez.
Beyond the pitching staff, interim GM Tony LaCava must sort out a crowded left field mix including Ben Revere, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey while considering backup catchers and continuing to add depth, particularly in the middle infield.
The Orioles may have lost more talent to free agency than any other team. Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce are no longer under contract, setting up a busy off-season in Baltimore.
Expect the Orioles to add at least one corner outfielder before opening day. Ideally they’d also add some production at first base/designated hitter and find pitchers capable of making up for the production of Chen and O’Day.
Boston Red Sox
Now that the Red Sox have acquired closer Craig Kimbrel, they’re pursuing the frontline pitching they made do without last season. There’s a good chance that Dave Dombrowski lands one of the best arms on the free agent market: David Price, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto.
Boston’s position player core looks strong thanks to the emergence of talented young players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. If Ramirez and/or Sandoval can rebound from poor 2015 performances, the lineup could once again be a force.
New York Yankees
Usually this is the time of year the Yankees do some serious shopping, but Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t seem eager to boost payroll, which means GM Brian Cashman will have to get creative.
The Yankees appear to be considering trades involving the likes of Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller, and rookie Rob Refsnyder looks like the leading candidate to start at second base. These aren’t the free-spending Yankees of old, and that’s good news for the rest of the AL East.
At least New York’s starting with a talented roster that reached the playoffs in 2015 and includes five capable MLB starters. Still, the Yankees have more than their share of aging position players, so the more players like Aaron Hicks they can acquire, the better.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays opened the off-season with the intention of adding a left-handed bat and bolstering their middle infield. They accomplished that almost immediately by acquiring Logan Morrison and Brad Miller from the Seattle Mariners.
It’s now possible Tampa Bay will trade from their remaining pitching depth, but on paper they have less work to do than any team in the division.