J.J. Hardy made an early exit from the free agent market when he re-signed with the Orioles before the ALCS, but the shortstop would’ve preferred to have inked his new contract even sooner. “It kind of went a lot longer than I wanted it to,” Hardy told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. “I didn’t think it needed to go that long, but it did. But I told my agent, ’Listen, this is what I want and I like it in Baltimore. Let’s get to what is fair and make this happen.’ Now that it is done, I’m glad everything worked out as it did.” Hardy also said he was hampered by a bad back last season, and hopes to deliver more of his customary power now that he’s feeling healthier. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Canadian-born Russell Martin, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders are slated to play major roles for the Blue Jays, though team president Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos tell Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail that this increase in Canadian talent is a coincidence in roster-building, not a promotional gimmick. “The city and the fans and the country embrace great players because great players help you win. And I think winning is what promotes the sport and baseball in Canada,” Anthopoulos said.
- Rays minor leaguer Spencer Edwards has been issued an 80-game suspension for a PED violation, the league announced. Edwards was Tampa’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft, selected 88th overall. The 21-year-old shortstop/center fielder has a .558 OPS in 569 PA over his first three pro seasons, none above the A-ball level.
- Rough seasons for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley were a big reason why the Red Sox suffered through a last-place finish in 2014. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe examines both why these players struggled and takes a broad overview of how the Sox are adapting their player development system as part of an in-depth four-part series of articles.
- The main takeaway from Speier’s piece is that the Red Sox felt empowered by their 2013 World Series title to deploy so many youngsters in last year’s starting lineup, and realistically, the team didn’t even expect all three to contribute right away. The larger roster flaw, according to Speier, may have been that Boston didn’t acquire enough veteran depth last winter to account for some growing pains by their three young starters. In response, the Red Sox began adding notable veterans even before last season ended, and now theoretically have protection should Bogaerts, Bradley or other unproven talents like Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo underperform.
- Speier’s piece also explores some bigger-picture topics, such as how the Red Sox are dealing with the age-old problem of how to best prepare each individual prospect to be ready for the majors. This is complicated by the fact that the quality gap between Triple-A and MLB has never been wider, yet top prospects are coming into the game with higher expectations than ever thanks to media hype and fan interest.