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Orioles looking to add to their club as 2016 begins

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Orioles looking to add to their club as 2016 begins

Was 2015 a good year for the Orioles?

For the first time in 30 years, the team secured, barely, its fourth consecutive non-losing season.

Chris Davis led the major leagues in home runs.

Manny Machado proved that two knee surgeries couldn’t prevent him from playing in every game as he demonstrated power and speed.

The bullpen continued to be terrific.

There were a number of not-so hopeful signs, too.

J.J. Hardy struggled offensively, and was often hurt.

Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman both had their poorest seasons in the Duquette-Showalter era.

As 2016 begins fans hope that it will be a better one for the Orioles, and there are signs that it could be.

A year ago, the Orioles had already lost three key members of their 2014 club to free agency: Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller.

There were questions whether Dan Duquette truly wanted to stay with the Orioles or move to Toronto to run the Blue Jays, and the team hadn’t done much in the offseason to improve on a team that handily won the American League East.

After 2014, only a World Series appearance would have been seen as an improvement, and that didn’t happen. The starting pitching wasn’t good enough.

But, so far this offseason, the Orioles retained two of their key free agents—and still haven’t lost any.

Matt Wieters returns—for 2016—at least, on a $15.8 million qualifying offer, and despite some fans fears, that hasn’t hindered the team from pursuing Davis.

Darren O’Day, who many considered a sure thing to leave, returns on a four-year $31 million contract, showing the fan base that the Orioles could accept the new reality of baseball economics.

Their offer to Davis, reported as 7 years, $150 million, probably doesn’t contain an opt-out and does contain substantial deferred money, is a fully competitive one—and far beyond what some of the frenzied fans thought they’d bid.

In fact, many of those who insisted that the Orioles couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t lose Davis, are now saying they shouldn’t spend that much money on the slugger and should look to spend the money elsewhere.

Well, they’re looking, and so are many other teams.

Seven weeks from now, spring training will be underway, and the team will look even more different than it does today.

Beyond the O’Day and Wieters’ signings, the Orioles acquired slugger Mark Trumbo, likely for a one-off in 2016, for relatively little, and signed South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who no one has seen play.

It’s been a fascinating offseason, and the intrigue continues.

There are more free agents, quality ones, available at this stage than there have ever been.

Usually the term “January signing” takes on negative connotations. It’s a role player, a valuable one, but not likely one to change the team’s fortunes.

That’s not the case this time around. Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmons Alex Gordon and Justin Upton are all among the top 10 free agents on the market, and all are still available.
So are Wei-Yin Chen and Yovani Gallardo as well as some other credible starting pitchers.

Usually, there are only a few names still looking for new baseball homes and some decent players. This year there are both.

The number of teams looking to sign free agents has narrowed, too. Some have already spent big money, and others like the Orioles have not.

According to Baseballreference.com, the Orioles estimated payroll for 2016—including raises for arbitration-eligible players, is nearing $120 million. That’s about where it was last year.

Obviously, the payroll will be increased for 2016, and there’s still room for a quality signing or two, but Duquette and the Orioles seem to work better in a narrower field.

If there are fewer teams bidding on Chen or Davis, and there still aren’t any indications anyone else has stepped up for the slugger, that’s good news for the Orioles.

Normally, the time during the holidays is a quiet one in baseball, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, have two new free agent pitchers, Scott Kazmir and Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda.

That would seem to remove another bidder for Chen.

At the outset of free agency, Duquette said he hoped to sign “a couple” of the Orioles free agents.

It would be unlikely, though not unwelcome if he began 2016 by adding a couple more.

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles show no interest in offering opt-outs in free agent deals

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

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Orioles' Adam Jones purchases Cal Ripken Jr.'s former estate, per report

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 25-acre, 8,545 square-foot home went up for auction this past Saturday and the highest bidder was......Adam Jones? 

The center fielder is purchasing the Orioles legend's former Reisterstown, Md. estate, according to The Athletic

Placed on the market in 2016 for $12.5 million, Ripken reduced the price to $9.7 million last year but was still unable to find a willing buyer. The estate was eventually put up for auction and sold to Jones for an undisclosed amount. 

The six bedroom home has 10 full bathrooms, a movie theater, a gym that overlooks an indoor basketball court, a pool and a baseball field with batting cages, a locker room and soaking tubs. One of the tubs was taken from Memorial Stadium and used by Johnny Unitas and Art Donovan, but Ripken is keeping that one. 

What makes this purchase even more interesting is that Jones will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, but that does not mean he plans on re-signing with the team. The 32-year old, who is in his last year of a six-year $85.5 million contract, is known to dip his toes in real estate investments and his wife, Audie Fugett, is a Baltimore native. 

The deal is scheduled to close on June 11. 

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David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

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USA TODAY Sports

David Price's complete game shuts down Baltimore's offense

BOSTON -- One strike away from a four-hit shutout, David Price happily settled for a complete game and his strongest outing of the season.

Price struck out eight and held Baltimore to five hits, including two in the ninth when the Orioles broke up the shutout before the Boston left-hander finished them off in a 6-2 victory for the Red Sox on Thursday night.

"He was amazing," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "He was outstanding. You saw it. Bad swings, up, down, in and out, changeup, cutter, sinkers ... that was fun to watch."

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first, and Xander Bogaerts homered with two on during a four-run fifth, giving Price more than enough cushion against the struggling Orioles.

Price (4-4) struck out eight and didn't walk a batter while winning consecutive starts for the first time this season. He cruised through the first eight innings before Andrew Susac led off the ninth with a double, the first Baltimore player to reach second base in the game.

Manny Machado spoiled the shutout bid with a two-out homer, but Price finished off Baltimore on Jonathan Schoop's pop-up to center as the Red Sox improved to 4-0 against Baltimore by taking the makeup game that was rained out on Patriots' Day.

"They're a free-swinging team," said Price, who threw just 95 pitches. "You can go out there and do that or you can go out there for three innings and give up a bunch of runs."

Danny Valencia had a pair of hits for the punchless Orioles, who have lost three of four and have the second-fewest wins in the American League. Valencia nearly had a double in the fifth, but got thrown out at second by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, one of several strong defensive plays that helped Price go the distance.

Hanley Ramirez also caught a foul pop on the top step of Boston's dugout in the second and Mookie Betts ran down a fly ball that was headed to the wall in right.

"The defensive plays that I had today, it makes everything a lot easier," Price said.

Kevin Gausman (3-3) went 4 2/3 innings for Baltimore, allowing six runs and eight hits while striking out six and walking two. He was pulled after Bogaerts drove a high fastball out to left with two men on during Boston's four-run fifth.

"We just got into some sticky situations where we just had to dig ourselves out of a hole and we just couldn't," Susac said.

The Orioles also weren't happy with the strike zone, which Susac said forced Gausman to throw some pitches the Red Sox pounced upon.

Manager Buck Showalter agreed with his catcher.

"I'm very biased, but I didn't think he got a fair shake tonight," Showalter said. "There were a lot of pitches that could have and should have gone his way."

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