The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox aren't the only American League East teams stocking up on star free agents.

The Baltimore Orioles entered into the fray Sunday by signing star shortstop Miguel Tejada. The deal is worth $72 million US over six years.

"Miguel continues the tradition of great Orioles shortstops," Orioles vice-president Mike Flanagan told The Associated Press.

"The cornerstone of the Orioles through the years has been our shortstops and he certainly fits in that mould."

The 27-year-old Tejada has spent his entire seven-year big-league career with the Oakland A's. The 2002 American League MVP was one of the most prized free agents on the market this offseason.

The Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers were also in the hunt to acquire Tejada's services.

The durable infielder has not missed a game in over three seasons and has only sat out of five contests in the past five years.

Tejada's offensive numbers dipped a bit last season. He had 27 home runs, 106 RBIs and a .278 batting average in 2003. In 2002, his MVP campaign, he finished with 34 homers, 131 RBIs and a .308 average.

Tejada is the first major free-agent signing for the Orioles this winter. Baltimore is also reportedly chasing former Montreal Expos star Vladimir Guerrero and a top-notch catcher either Ivan Rodriguez or Javy Lopez.

"We have other players that are big players that we want to add to the club," Orioles executive vice-president Jim Beattie told AP. "This is a signal one of the things we can do to show players that the Orioles are ready to contend, hopefully quickly."

The Orioles have watched the top two AL East squads load up on top talent in recent weeks.

The Yankees added former Expos pitcher Javier Vazquez and are reportedly close to landing all-star outfielder Gary Sheffield. They also pulled off a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Kevin Brown.

The Boston Red Sox have also been active, signing free-agent closer Keith Foulke and acquiring ace starter Curt Schilling in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Their Canadian division mates in Toronto used free-agent cash to obtain pitching help. The Blue Jays have added starters Miguel Batista and Pat Hentgen, as well as reliever Kerry Ligtenberg. Toronto also added starter Ted Lilly in a swap with the A's.

with files from Canadian Press