1 Roster Change That Would Make Each MLB Team Better
If I had just one wish...
That is the premise for this presentation. Wishes and hopes are what baseball is all about. Haven't you had at least one time in your life when you uttered these words about your favorite team: "If only they had 'Player X'"?
What we will do in making this presentation is essentially trade one player on each team's roster for another. The criteria will be that the replacement is either a free agent or one who has been rumored to be available this winter.
This will not be replacing Curtis Granderson with Matt Kemp. Kemp isn't going anywhere.
Here we go.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Denard Span for Chris Young
Earlier this month, ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) reported that a rival executive told him that Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young could be made available this winter.
In addition, Minnesota Twins center fielder Denard Span has long been rumored to be available as well.
Span would give the Diamondbacks a solid leadoff option (.357 career OBP), which D-Backs have been lacking.
Atlanta Braves: Marco Scutaro for Dan Uggla
Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla gave his team hope for optimism coming into the 2012 season with a strong second half in 2011. However, the optimism is severely diminished following another lackluster campaign.
Uggla hit just .220 and registered a whopping 26.7 percent strikeout rate, tied for 10th-highest in the majors. His 19 home runs were a career low as well.
The Braves owe Uggla $39 million over the next three seasons. They certainly can't be happy with what clearly appears to be a potential for further regression.
Marco Scutaro, on the other hand, is thriving at the plate at the age of 36. Following his trade from the Colorado Rockies to the San Francisco Giants, Scutaro was a spark plug, hitting .364 with 44 RBI in 61 games.
Scutaro would give the Braves a solid hitter at the top of the lineup, especially if center fielder Michael Bourn departs via free agency. Not to mention that Scutaro's 7.1 percent strikeout rate is far lower.
Baltimore Orioles: Shaun Marcum for Tommy Hunter
The Baltimore Orioles showed off a young pitching staff toward the end of the season and in the playoffs that gave fans optimism for next season and beyond.
Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Steve Johnson and Wei-Yin Chen all form a nucleus for a solid rotation for years to come. In addition, it's entirely possible that GM Dan Duquette could re-sign Joe Saunders for at least a year.
How about adding another veteran pitcher to the mix?
Shaun Marcum has experience in the ever-competitive AL East Division—a 3.85 ERA in five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Marcum certainly comes with health concerns, though, which could keep his value from rising through the roof this winter.
Replacing an ineffective Tommy Hunter with Marcum would give the Orioles a rotation that could easily help them to compete for an AL East Division title next season as well.
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli for Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli has always found Fenway Park to his liking.
In 19 career games at Fenway, Napoli has a .306/.397/.710 slash line with a 1.107 OPS, along with seven HR and 17 RBI.
Imagine what those numbers would look like playing half his games there.
Chicago Cubs: James Shields for Chris Volstad
There remains a possibility that the Tampa Bay Rays could decline the option on starting pitcher James Shields for the 2013 season.
The Chicago Cubs are in rebuild mode, and while they don't want to pad their roster with high-priced players, adding an impact starter—especially if Matt Garza is dealt between now and next year's trade deadline—doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.
Shields came on strong in the second half to post a 15-10 record, a 3.52 ERA and 223 strikeouts in 227.2 innings.
If there's one thing the Cubs need, it's a pitcher who's not afraid to go after hitters aggressively.
Chicago White Sox: Dan Haren for Phillip Humber
The Chicago White Sox will likely decline the option on Jake Peavy for the 2013 season. Phillip Humber was simply awful after throwing a perfect game at the beginning of the season. John Danks was hurt for much of the year.
Seems to be that the White Sox are in need of pitching.
To that end, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Dan Haren just might be a great fit.
Haren's $15.5 million option could be declined by the Angels. In addition, Haren's second half (6-5, 3.58 ERA, 1.123 WHIP) was much more indicative of the pitcher Haren has been throughout his career.
Cincinnati Reds: Angel Pagan for Drew Stubbs
San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan has certainly proved his worth this season. Pagan was a terrific option at the top of the order for the Giants, adding speed, a .288 average and a league-leading 15 triples.
Drew Stubbs has had more than enough time to prove his worth. But a 30.5 percent strikeout rate and a .213 average this year isn't exactly what I would call proving worth.
Reds leadoff hitters posted a slash line of .208/.254/.327/.581 this season.
Pagan posted a .288/.338/.440/.778 line. Just a wee bit better.
Cleveland Indians: Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman
Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is a likely candidate for Comeback Player of the Year this season after missing all but 43 games in 2011.
LaRoche has a mutual option for $10 million for next year, but that could be declined by either the Nats or by LaRoche.
If LaRoche moves on, the Indians should absolutely pounce. Casey Kotchman was simply not the answer this season, hitting just .229 with a .612 OPS.
LaRoche will likely cost at least $10 million annually, but the Indians will have the available money, with the likes of Kotchman, Grady Sizemore, Derek Lowe and possibly Travis Hafner coming off the books.
Colorado Rockies: Anibal Sanchez for Any Rockies Pitcher
I think it's pretty obvious what the Colorado Rockies need most right about now.
The issue they're going to have, however, is convincing any pitcher to come to Denver.
Considering how tough Detroit Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez has shown to be in the playoffs, he's as good a choice as any on the market.
Sanchez took a hard-luck loss against the Oakland A's in the ALDS despite giving up only two runs, and then he shut the Yankees out over seven innings to earn the win in Game 2. Whether or not the Rockies can do a terrific sales pitch is another point entirely, but Sanchez has already shown he's a big-game pitcher.
Detroit Tigers: Nick Swisher for Brennan Boesch
It seems pretty apparent that the New York Yankees will let right fielder Nick Swisher walk via free agency.
And Detroit Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch has fallen so out of favor he wasn't even included on the postseason roster.
Swisher has been nothing but consistent in his last five seasons—in the neighborhood of 25 HR and 90 RBI. That's a whole lot more than the collection of right fielders in Detroit has produced.
Houston Astros: Brandon McCarthy for Bud Norris
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy should be back to full health when spring training starts after taking a line drive off the bat of Erick Aybar off his head.
The Astros have a staff of struggling youngsters trying to make their way in the majors. While Bud Norris thrives at Minute Maid Park, his home/road splits (1.71/6.94 ERA) were off-the-charts ridiculous.
McCarthy won't break the wallet of new owner Jim Crane, who is looking to keep payroll somewhere around $60 million as he and his staff restructure.km
Kansas City Royals: Zack Greinke for Luke Hochevar
The Kansas City Royals traded Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2010 for a wealth of talent. He was traded again by the Brewers this season, again for a substantial return.
In all, seven players were dealt for Greinke in two separate deals—maybe it's time for the Royals to bring him back home.
Greinke could very well re-sign with the Los Angeles Angels, but on the oft-chance that he doesn't, GM Dayton Moore should open up the checkbook.
Los Angeles Angels: Jonathan Broxton for David Carpenter
The bullpen for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 was a topic of much debate this past season. While newcomer Ernesto Frieri was a bright spot, the rest of the unit struggled mightily.
Jonathan Broxton certainly showed his worth once again as a valuable presence—first as a closer, then as a reliable late-inning bridge to Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
Broxton would be a great pickup in that he won't command a ton of money, and he could move Frieri back to a setup role so that Scott Downs and others could be used in a more prudent fashion.
Los Angeles Dodgers: None
Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers can be seen on various Internet forums railing against a team they believe should be in the playoffs.
After all of the moves made by GM Ned Colletti from mid-July on and the massive amounts of payroll added to the roster, it's understandable that fans feel slighted.
Personally, I wouldn't touch this team right now. The talent is there.
Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez in the infield, with Luis Cruz in a utility role. Carl Crawford and possibly Shane Victorino in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right. A.J. Ellis behind the plate, six veterans in the rotation and a bullpen that includes Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra.
Give this lineup a full season. Personally, I don't see the need to replace anyone.
Miami Marlins: Brandon League for Heath Bell
Over the final month of the regular season, Brandon League got his closer mojo back.
League was brilliant in September/early October, posting a 0.55 ERA with six saves for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Marlins likely being more cost-conscious next season, League would be an excellent replacement for the failed Heath Bell project.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Adams for Francisco Rodriguez
The Milwaukee Brewers made a stirring comeback in August and early September to temporarily put themselves back in the playoff hunt before crashing back to earth.
Now that reliever Francisco Rodriguez will hit free agency, Texas Rangers reliever Mike Adams would be a more than suitable replacement.
One of the most consistent relievers in baseball over the past five seasons, Adams would fit well as the setup man for closer John Axford. With a young starting rotation, veteran experience in the bullpen will come in handy, especially a veteran with a stellar resume like Adams has.
Minnesota Twins: Ryan Dempster for Nick Blackburn
Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan has made it pretty clear that starting pitching is the priority this offseason. The Twins have lost 195 games in two seasons—the worst stretch since the late 1990s.
Starter Ryan Dempster would be a good start in their rebuilding efforts. Dempster has almost no shot of re-signing with the Texas Rangers.
Yes, I know that Ryan said that the Twins will go after "affordable pitching."
But this is all about wishing, not reality.
New York Mets: Brandon Lyon for Manny Acosta
For the second consecutive season, New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson will be working on revamping his bullpen.
Since he didn't do such a good job the first time around, I'll be happy to offer a suggestion.
Toronto Blue Jays reliever Brandon Lyon put together a very successful season, with a 3.10 ERA in 67 overall appearances between the Houston Astros and Blue Jays.
Lyon likely won't be commanding another three-year, $15 million contract. But I can't see any middle reliever being paid that kind of money again, and I'm sure Alderson won't be offering that, either.
Sill, Lyon would be good fit in a bullpen that was the second-worst in the National League.
New York Yankees: Torii Hunter for Nick Swisher
There is one thing that right fielder Torii Hunter has yet to do in his major league career: win a World Series ring.
He could certainly do that in Anaheim, but he could also do it in New York as well.
Hunter is absolutely one of the classiest guys in baseball, and he put together one of the most well-rounded seasons of his major league career in 2012: a .313 average—the highest of his 16-year career—with 16 HR and 92 RBI. Combine that with his outstanding glove in right field, and you have a veteran that could easily replace Swisher.
Not only that, but Hunter would bring class, dignity and a never-ending smile.
Oakland Athletics: Kevin Youkilis for Brandon Inge
Oakland A's GM Billy Beane was the man who gave third baseman Kevin Youkilis the nickname "Greek God of Walks."
Maybe he can bring his God back to Oakland.
Youkilis would be a great fit on a team that could use his veteran experience and bat. Yes, he hit just .235 this season, but I am not one who believes a regression is going on at the age of 33.
Youkilis was the exact type of player Beane loved when he was building his A's with his "Moneyball" style in the early 2000s. Seems only fitting that Youk joins him in Oakland.
Philadelphia Phillies: Michael Bourn for John Mayberry
There is absolutely no way I'm convinced that Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro intends to start an outfield of Domonic Brown, Juan Pierre and John Mayberry.
Pierre could be back—he was one of the most productive players on the team with a salary under $1 million.
Michael Bourn would be a terrific presence at the top of the lineup to replace the departed Shane Victorino. A lineup with Bourn, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz as the top five could be very potent indeed.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Alex Gonzalez for Clint Barmes
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez should be healthy by the time spring training arrives. And considering that he's coming off a torn ACL, he should be affordable as well.
The Pirates could use a guy who could add both pop and a terrific glove. Clint Barmes provided a solid glove, but the bat oftentimes looked more like an invisible stick, as Barmes hit just .229 with eight homers and 45 RBI.
San Diego Padres: Jake Peavy for Ross Ohlendorf
Starting pitcher Jake Peavy had his best years with the San Diego Padres, winning a Cy Young Award in 2007. Now that the shoulder issues are fixed, it could be time to bring Peavy back home.
With new ownership in place and looking to become a contender, Peavy would be a great addition. Not to mention the street cred the ownership would get in San Diego as well.
Bringing back one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history would be a nice start in the efforts of ownership to bring a championship to a city still looking for its first in franchise history.
San Francisco Giants: Josh Hamilton for Melky Cabrera
The San Francisco Giants are certainly used to having a major media presence patrolling left field.
For better or worse, Barry Bonds' 15 years in San Francisco were spent with the media charting his every move. Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has kind of gotten used to that himself.
Hamilton's offense would certainly be a plus—it's hard to overlook 43 HR and 128 RBI. And the Giants are used to the media swarm, so they could certainly accommodate the legions who will continue to follow Hamilton's every move.
Seattle Mariners: Adam LaRoche for Justin Smoak
The Justin Smoak experiment so far has been a bust.
The Seattle Mariners demanded that Smoak be included in a package of players from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal in 2010.
They are likely ruing that demand right about now.
Adam LaRoche's comeback season clearly showed that his shoulder is fully healed, and his veteran presence in the Mariners' lineup would be a welcome addition on a team loaded with young talent.
St. Louis Cardinals: None
The St. Louis Cardinals are now just two wins away from reaching the World Series for the second consecutive season. And they did it this time around without a franchise player (Albert Pujols).
A solid rotation, a bullpen that's become stingier as the postseason progresses and a lineup that's proving itself to be deep—I honestly wouldn't change a thing right about now.
Tampa Bay Rays: Shane Victorino for B.J. Upton
Center fielder B.J. Upton is almost certainly gone this season after spending eight seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. At just 28 years of age, he will draw plenty of interest.
Shane Victorino has made a living on being a pest at the top of the order and providing more than capable defense. At just 31 years of age, Victorino still has that capability.
The top two spots in Tampa Bay's batting order hit just .229 last season. Victorino's .255 average easily tops that, even in a down year. The 39 stolen bases will certainly play well at the top of the order as well.
Texas Rangers: Zack Greinke for Scott Feldman
How would it look for the budding Texas Rangers-Los Angeles Angels rivalry if starting pitcher Zack Greinke jumped ship and signed with the Rangers?
After all, the same happened in reverse last year, with C.J. Wilson switching A's—from Arlington to Anaheim.
What's good for the goose is good for the Greinke—I mean gander.
Toronto Blue Jays: Kyle Lohse for Aaron Laffey
The Toronto Blue Jays put together a 4.82 ERA last season—not a banner year. With the exception of Brandon Morrow, who missed close to two months, not one starter posted an ERA south of 4.00.
Kyle Lohse easily posted the best season of his career with a 16-3 record and 2.86 ERA. GM Alex Anthopoulos has already stated that the Jays will look to restock via trades and free agency.
Adding Kyle Lohse would be a great start.
Washington Nationals: B.J. Upton for Roger Bernadina
Center fielder B.J. Upton will likely be leaving the Tampa Bay Rays after eight seasons. At 28 years of age, there's plenty of gas left in that tank.
If Adam LaRoche declines his mutual option, Michael Morse could slide from left field to first base, keeping his potent power bat in the lineup.
An outfield of Upton, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth looks pretty potent to me as well.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.