The Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays are among the teams that face a critical decision this offseason, writes MLB.com’s Mike Petriello. All three are looking up at a stacked pair of rosters in Boston and New York, and there’s an argument to be made that each of the three should rebuild rather than make an aggressive push to contend in 2018. The Orioles and Jays are set to lose Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson to free agency next winter, while the low-payroll Rays have already been forced to trade Evan Longoria largely for fiscal reasons and have yet to see this core group realize its full potential. What truly matters for bubble teams of this nature, though, is simply making a definitive call, Petriello argues. With so many incentives (in terms of talent acquisition) for teams at the bottom of the league, rebuilding toward a brighter future or aggressively “going for it” are more logical routes for each of these teams than merely executing half-measures that will result in another middle-of-the-pack finish, Petriello posits.
Some notes from around the AL East…
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun checks in on some pitchers that’ll have the opportunity to make an impression on the Orioles at this week’s minor league mini-camp. While 40-man players aren’t required to attend the event, some will nonetheless be on hand, including righty Miguel Castro — the reliever-turned-starter that’ll head to Spring Training out of minor league options. Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes, too, is getting a look from coaches and Orioles decision-makers. Meoli notes that Cortes appears headed for a long relief role if he’s able to crack the big league roster out of Spring Training — not uncommon for pitchers selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Others of note include Tanner Scott, Yefry Ramirez and Chris Lee.
- After missing all of the 2017 season as he recovered from two surgeries to repair his Achilles tendon, Rays infielder Matt Duffy feels he is at 100 percent and is beginning a running program, per Bill Chastain of MLB.com. In addition to running on a track, Duffy has been going to physical therapy sessions three times per week to continue strengthening the area and is confident in its stability. “I’m just finally to the point where I’m not worried at all. No anxiety,” Duffy said. “[Anxiety] was hanging over my head all year. Even when I felt good, I’d be like, ’When am I not going to feel good? Which step is going to set me back for five days?'” As Chastain points out, Duffy was initially acquired from the Giants to play shortstop for the Rays, but the trade of Evan Longoria (to Duffy’s former team) and the presence of Adeiny Hechavarria could once again have him ticketed for his former position, third base.
- The Blue Jays’ acquisition of Yangervis Solarte over the weekend gives the club plenty of versatility, which has been a point of focus for the organization as GM Ross Atkins explains to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. “What we’re looking for, and will continue to look for, are options and versatile options and guys that can do multiple things, and guys that can typically play in the middle of the diamond can do more than that,” says Atkins. The GM notes that both Solarte and fellow trade pickup Aledmys Diaz can handle middle-of-the-diamond positions, which should strengthen the club’s depth considerably — a critical need for a Jays team that last year leaned heavily on Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney in the absence of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis. Atkins suggests that Solarte can not only see time at second base, third base and shortstop but also indicated that he could log occasional innings at first base and in the outfield. Atkin also acknowledged that the Jays are still in the market for an outfielder and for some rotation help; the staggeringly slow free-agent market should leave with plenty of options to pursue in that regard. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays have about $20MM to spend.