The much more open AL East in recent years puts the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays in much more optimistic positions starting out seasons, with a willingness to spend they may not have had in previous offseasons.
The Orioles commitment to keep the success of recent years (two playoff appearances, 81 wins or more in four consecutive seasons) is shown through the players they’ve re-signed. Chris Davis was held on to with a seven-year, $161 million contract, which is the biggest deal in Orioles history by far, the previous one being $75 million to Miguel Tejada.
But Davis wasn’t the only big name the Orioles managed to hold on to, although he was the most expensive. A lot of teams were interested in Darren O’Day but they held on to the one-time All-Star with a four-year, $31 million contract. Matt Wieters, one of the most coveted catchers before this free agency period began, was one of the few who elected to accept the $15.8 million qualifying offer, which means one less headache to deal with. The Orioles also traded for Mark Trumbo from the Mariners, and they’re not done.
Their deal with Yovani Gallardo seems to be on hold, but they’re the closest team to signing the starting pitcher, the best one remaining on the market, for something around $13 million a season. If their ambitions are to be believed, they’re still trying to add another bat to the outfield, with Dexter Fowler, hoping he signs for about $9-10 million a season, a solid looking option for them.
The Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time in over twenty years, but considering their payroll, couldn’t afford to go out and throw money at everyone. Like the New York Yankees, they made trades to help them get better, acquiring Jesse Chavez, Arnold Leon, Darrell Ceciliani and probably most notable of the trade arrivals, Drew Storen.
They did make one big move in the free agency market, improving their rotation by signing J.A. Happ off of the Pittsburgh Pirates on a three-year, $36 million deal. Happ played for the Blue Jays from 2012-2014, arriving back in Canada after a very strong second half of the season with the Pirates, posting a 7-2 record and 1.85 ERA.
This division is still about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and not just for their names. They seemed to make some nice moves to improve or solidify their strengths, while the Red Sox did pick up David Price from the Blue Jays for a price no team in the league was going to match. But the wage bill doesn’t translate into wins, as we see year after year. Spending the money smartly, which the Blue Jays and Orioles hope they have, is what matters the most.