The 2012 Major League Baseball season may now be in the books, but for fans, an equally enticing league is about to start—the Hot Stove league.
All winter long, fans of each team will be closely monitoring moves made by their respective teams. They'll likely either applaud some moves or lament other transactions not made.
Many fans will have a wish list of players they'd love for their teams to acquire, whether it's financially feasible or not.
Here is a list of one deal for each team that fans would make if they in fact were the acting general managers.
As a free agent this offseason, center fielder Michael Bourn will likely command a nice long-term contract for himself.
If fans of the Atlanta Braves were controlling the purse strings, Bourn would be back.
No one in the majors patrols center field like Bourn—no one in the majors comes close in terms of defensive metrics.
Bourn gave the Braves a leadoff presence they've not often enjoyed, and his season-adjusted .274/.348/.391 slashline was the best of his career.
There's no telling what Bourn's agent Scott Boras will be asking at this point for Bourn—with Boras, expect the number to be high. But Braves fans will spend the money to bring Bourn back.
If I'm a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I am not liking the prospect of either Cliff Pennington, John McDonald or Willie Bloomquist at shortstop everyday.
Now Elvis Andrus is a different story altogether.
Andrus would clearly solidify the position and be in place for a number of years. The Rangers clearly like Jurickson Profar, and the D-Backs could send back a package of players that includes McDonald, who would give the Rangers versatility in the infield.
The Baltimore Orioles showed some quality pitching from their starters down the stretch and in the postseason, but they're still in need of a No. 1 starter.
Zack Greinke could certainly fill that role.
The chances of Greinke actually signing with the Orioles are slim to none. According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette simply won't go that route.
The Orioles are also in need of a No. 1 starter and a middle-of-the-order bat—the latter an issue on full display in the playoffs—although it's unlikely either solution will come from free agency. Both of those require a serious financial commitment, and Duquette has already stated he believes the organization can remain within the parameters of the current payroll and be competitive.
Still, if fans had their way...
The Boston Red Sox used a combination of nine players—Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik, Nate Spears and Lars Anderson—to man left field for them in 2012.
One of the biggest priorities this offseason for general manager Ben Cherington will be to solidify that position. One way he could do that would be to re-sign Ross.
If fans ran the show, Ross would be retained, and the Red Sox would go after right fielder Torii Hunter.
According to a recent ESPN poll, Hunter was the outfielder that Sox fans would prefer to see signed by Cherington. Hunter is very close with designated hitter David Ortiz, and he would be a terrific presence in the clubhouse.
Zack Greinke's name is likely to appear several times on this list, so get used to it.
Fans of the Chicago Cubs no doubt would love to see Greinke pitching full-time at Wrigley Field. There's no question the Cubs need help in their rotation, and GM Jed Hoyer has stated that as the team's priority this offseason, saying:
We certainly have to be aggressive with starting pitching over the winter. I think that hardly makes us unique among major league teams. We will certainly have competition to find starting pitching, but we certainly will need to bolster our rotation.
In addition, Hoyer also said that money will be spent if he feels the value is there:
We will have financial flexibility. We’ve been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we’re efficient going forward. We’ll obviously be active in the free-agent market. That’s a big part of our research, and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend, and we’ll focus on it heavily.
To that end, fans would back a Greinke signing.
Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski enjoyed the most productive season of his career in 2012, and he continues to be one of the most durable backstops in the majors.
To that end, fans no doubt would be up in arms if new general manager Rick Hahn were to fail in his efforts to get Pierzynski inked to a contract.
There simply are no better options available on the free-agent market, and even if Pierzynski was to double his current salary ($4 million), he'd be well worth it.
There's no question the biggest need for the Cincinnati Reds this winter is to address their lack of a leadoff hitter.
Reds leadoff hitters batted just .208 with a .254 on-base percentage in 2012.
Signing center fielder Michael Bourn would certainly help in that regard.
Current center fielder Drew Stubbs continues to be an enigma. He hit just .213 in 2012 and has registered at least 160 strikeouts for three consecutive seasons.
Offering Stubbs up for trade and signing Bourn would take care of two needs—better production from center field overall and upgrading the leadoff spot.
Back in May, Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez chose to rip fans for their lack of support:
Guys don’t want to come over here, and people wonder why. Why doesn’t Carlos Beltran want to come over here? Well, because of that. That’s part of it. It doesn’t go unnoticed—trust us. I’m not calling out the fans. It’s just how it is… Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans. We know the weather (stinks), but people see that. Other players know that.
Perez wasn't even close to being done. You see, he's an equal-opportunity ripper, tearing into Indians ownership and management as well:
You can't miss. You have to be right. That's why I say it's not just ownership. They don't make the trades. It's the GMs. It goes hand in hand. The GMs can only spend the money the owners give them, but they pick who they spend it on or who they don't. They pick. The owners don't pick.
Josh Willingham would look great in this lineup. They didn't want to [pay] for that last year... That's the decision they make, and this is the bed we're laying in.
And then one final shot—this time at former manager Manny Acta.
If I'm a fan of the Indians, I'm just about done listening to this mouth.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy chose to get out of Dodge rather than being micromanaged.
Colorado Rockies owners Larry and Dick Monfort have long been proponents of developing and growing players through their farm system.
Fans liken that to saying they're cheap.
The Rockies endured a 98-loss season along with the worst pitching staff in the majors. Fans saw the resignation of their pitching coach—Bob Apodaca—shortly after the implementation of the failed Project 5,183. They saw manager Jim Tracy—signed to an "indefinite" contract extension—suddenly resign at the end of the season as well.
Fans also saw new general manager Bill Geivett take an office in the clubhouse right next to the manager, presumably to snoop—er, observe—the daily happenings in the clubhouse.
If I'm a fan of the Rockies, right about now, I'm demanding that the Monfort brothers bring in a new management team and give them autonomy to do what's best for the Rockies.
What happened in Denver this past season was nothing short of a complete embarrassment. Is it really any wonder that Apodaca and Tracy chose to walk away?
This ownership group needs to change the way they do things—and fans absolutely demand it as well.
Detroit Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez showed over the past two months that he appears to be very comfortable pitching in Motown.
A 2.43 ERA in six starts in the final month of the season, combined with his sterling effort this postseason, pretty much showed that fact.
Given Sanchez's performance, if I'm a fan, I'm absolutely re-signing him.
This one's probably obvious, but it will never happen.
The Astros are in clear need of pitching and productive hitters. Starting pitcher Zack Greinke would obviously fill a major need in the rotation.
But remember that this is about what the fans would do, not what what will happen in reality.
In reality, the Astros will increase payroll, but they'll do with low-cost/high-upside players. They are expected to keep a low profile in terms of the free-agent market this offseason, so Greinke is clearly not on their list of priorities.
But if I'm an Astros fan, he'd be on my list.
Kansas City Royals top prospect Wil Myers absolutely excelled last season, hitting .314 with 37 HR and 109 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A ball.
Standing between Myers and a shot at the majors is current right fielder Jeff Francoeur.
Francoeur has become a fan favorite in Kansas City. He's thrown a $100 bill into the seats in right field as part of a "Frenchy's Quarter" promotion, and he's been appreciative of the support received from fans over the last two seasons.
But if there's one thing that fans want more than anything, it's production. Francoeur fell far short of that mark in 2012.
Trading Francoeur could help bring in more prospects and give Myers the chance to do what he did last season. Whether or not his production will translate to the major league level is uncertain. But there's no way of knowing unless Francoeur is moved.
The Los Angeles Angels would love to bring fan favorite Torii Hunter back next season.
But there may be something standing in the way of that happening.
In his season wrap, MLB.com beat reporter Alden Gonzalez had this to say about Hunter:
He really wants to come back and may do so for about half his 2012 salary ($18 million) on a one- or two-year deal. But his return will hinge on whether Dipoto is able to shed Vernon Wells, who's owed $21 million over the next two seasons and what he decides with regard to the young, high-upside Peter Bourjos.
If fans had a choice between unloading Wells and keeping Hunter, the choice is obvious.
Of course, the reality is that Wells will be one of the hardest players to move this winter, unless DiPoto ponies up at least 80 to 90 percent of his remaining dollars along with him. The fans may want that to happen, but owner Arte Moreno would likely balk just a bit.
In any event, the fans likely would if they controlled the purse strings.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers could have six veteran starters returning next season—Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Josh Beckett—questions still abound about the state of their rotation.
There is one interesting name on the free-agent market who could be appealing to the Dodgers—Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez certainly proved this postseason that's he's ready for prime time. And Los Angeles would certainly be prime time.
With Jake Peavy now off the market, Zack Greinke and Sanchez represent the two biggest names on the market. Sanchez's game works well in a pitcher-friendly environment, and he could be just the piece the Dodgers need.
The Miami Marlins are currently without a manager, courtesy of Ozzie Guillen being shown the door last week.
Former Marlins catcher Mike Redmond is among the list of candidates, and no less than former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell is all for Redmond as the Marlins skipper, telling the Sun-Sentinel:
Mike Redmond is a man who maximized his talents as a player, communicated well and was a leader. I believe he is the man to lead the Marlins back to playing at a championship level. I'm Mike Lowell, and I approved this message.
If I were a fan, I'd approve that message as well.
Redmond is honing his managerial skills now, working as the skipper for the Dunedin Blue Jays in advanced Single-A ball last season.
Redmond would bring stability back in a leadership position where it's desperately needed right now.
I wrote this about Josh Hamilton for a piece published on Monday, and it bears repeating:
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attansio absolutely hates to lose.
He watched his team get ever so close to a playoff berth in early September only to fade down the stretch. He's the owner of an alleged small-market team, yet his team consistently draws the biggest crowds in the National League.
Don't think for one second that Attansio is going to think like a small-market owner this winter.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported two weeks ago that the Brewers could be in play for free-agent center fielder Josh Hamilton.
I not only agree, I say go for it.
For one, Hamilton's former accountability partner, Jerry Narron, is in the Brewers organization. That gives Hamilton his main guy back who can keep him on the straight and narrow. And it allows manager Ron Roenicke to go with an outfield of Ryan Braun, Hamilton and Carlos Gomez with Corey Hart taking over at first base full-time.
Attansio hates to lose. Acquiring Hamilton will give him and his team a winning feel for next season.
Having Narron already in place in Milwaukee would certainly be to Hamilton's benefit. I can't imagine for one second that fans wouldn't be salivating at the thought of Hamilton, Braun and Aramis Ramirez hitting three-four-five in the batting order.
The Minnesota Twins are desperate for pitching.
There, now that I have played the role of Captain Obvious, here's how they can get some.
Trade center fielder Denard Span.
Several teams are in need of a center fielder, and offering up Span's services could bring back the biggest need for the Twins.
Ben Revere could slide over to center in place of Span, and the Twins would at least get started on rebuilding their porous pitching staff.
The New York Mets have until Wednesday to exercise the 2013 option on the contract of third baseman David Wright for $16 million. That's almost a certainty to happen.
But the bigger issue is in signing Wright long-term.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman stated on Tuesday that negotiations have thus far been slow.
Retaining their own players has never been a strong suit for the Mets during their history. Signing Wright quickly would show the fans their commitment to the team and to the future, and it'll show that they'll reward those who stick by them.
Yes, it's not a personnel move, but it's one that's still critical to the fanbase.
Just one look around the new Yankee Stadium this season, and it was obvious that once-loyal fans are now staying away in droves.
In fact, the Yankees ordered stadium attendants to move fans down to the higher-priced lower sections of the stadium during the ALCS to make the stadium appear full.
There's trouble afoot in the Bronx, and that trouble comes from the exorbitant ticket prices.
If Hal Steinbrenner and company really want to make a statement to their loyal fanbase, lowering ticket prices for next season would go a long way in restoring fan loyalty.
The Oakland Athletics certainly showed off a young pitching staff during the latter part of the 2012 season that was fearless in its approach.
Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley and Tommy Milone all showed they are capable of pitching in big games down the stretch.
But one pitcher who wasn't there at the end was of course Brandon McCarthy.
McCarthy was well on his way from returning to full health after a stint on the disabled list when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. McCarthy required emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, ending his season.
McCarthy should be back to full health by the spring, and the A's should absolutely bring him back. His 3.29 ERA over the past two seasons and his impeccable control play well at O.co Coliseum, and McCarthy has become immensely popular with the fanbase.
General manager Billy Beane has stated he's more inclined to keep his current players rather than selling anyone off. The fanbase no doubt would like to see that as well.
The Philadelphia Phillies are expected not to re-sign outfielder Juan Pierre, meaning that three outfielders from the 2012 team will have departed.
Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Pierre made up the outfield for the Phillies for much of the first half of 2012. The outfield will now consist of John Mayberry, Domonic Brown and....
How about Michael Bourn?
Bourn would be perfect in the Phillies lineup—a great leadoff presence, a tremendous defensive presence and a threat to steal at any given time.
Sounds like a marriage made in heaven.
One of the acknowledged needs for the Pittsburgh Pirates has been another bat to support superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Free-agent right fielder Nick Swisher could be that bat.
Signing Swisher could move Garrett Jones permanently to first base. In addition, Swisher can man both right field and first, giving manager Clint Hurdle options should injury arise or just for days off.
The late-season swoon by the Pirates wasted McCutchen's MVP-like performance and left a sour taste in the mouths of fans who were clearly beginning to come back and show their support.
Finding offensive weapons to support McCutchen would go a long way in keeping those fans happy.
The San Diego Padres have a collection of solid arms in their starting rotation, but none of them would be considered an ace.
Josh Johnson could be that ace.
The Miami Marlins have certainly shown a willingness to deal for the right price. The Padres have the best farm system in the majors and certainly a few pieces that could be dangled the Marlins' way.
Johnson was healthy for the entire season, posting a 3.81 ERA in 31 starts. He could certainly be the ace the Padres are looking for.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants will be parading down Market Street on their way to City Hall in celebration of a second World Series title in three seasons.
Shortly thereafter, they'll take on the business at hand.
My first move as a fan is to re-sign center fielder Angel Pagan.
Pagan was hugely successful in his first year by the bay, hitting .288 with 29 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples. He and Marco Scutaro proved to be a terrific tandem at the top of the batting order, both in the second half and throughout the playoffs.
First order of business—re-sign Pagan and then set sights on Scutaro.
After finishing last in the American League in scoring runs for the fourth consecutive season, there's little doubt as to what the biggest priority is for the Seattle Mariners this offseason.
Big bats are what the Mariners need, and the one I'm going after is Josh Hamilton.
The Mariners are now free from Ichiro Suzuki's $18 million annual salary, so money is clearly there. Hamilton has his issues, but I don't think anyone is going to scoff at 43 HR and 128 RBI.
The St. Louis Cardinals have shortstop Rafael Furcal signed for one more season. But there's no guarantee how effective Furcal will be next season after rehabbing his right elbow.
If I'm general manager John Mozeliak, I'm making a call to Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and initiating discussions about Elvis Andrus.
As mentioned in a previous slide, it seems clear that the future in Texas belongs to Jurickson Profar. The Rangers could use some help on the backside of their rotation, and the Cardinals have some quality young arms that could convince Daniels to cut Andrus loose.
The Tampa Bay Rays tried to fix their issues at the designated-hitter position last year with the signing of Luke Scott. It didn't quite work out the way they planned.
Scott appeared in only 96 games, hitting just .229 with 14 HR and 55 RBI.
One player who could be very intriguing at that position is Lance Berkman.
Berkman made his way to the disabled list three times himself last year, playing in just 32 games. But what if he is kept off the field and just hits? The bat certainly still plays, as evidenced by his terrific 2011 season.
Preserving the legs by moving to DH might not be a bad move for Berkman, who doesn't appear to be ready to ride off into the sunset just yet.
Catcher Mike Napoli went through a tough season in 2012 after setting career highs in 2011 with a .320 average, 30 HR and 75 RBI.
Napoli went through ankle, quad and knee issues throughout the season, spending over a month on the disabled list with the quad issue. All of that combined to curtail Napoli's offense in 2012.
If I'm general manager Jon Daniels, I'm offering a deal for Napoli to return to Texas. His only other option at this point is Geovany Soto, and there's certainly no other help on the horizon aside from Napoli on the free-agent market.
Much like many other teams this offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays biggest need is rotation help.
Ricky Romero can't be considered an ace after the season he went through. Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek are both out until at least June of next season. Henderson Alvarez took a step backward after a promising rookie campaign. The only starter who was consistent all season long was Brandon Morrow, and he missed two months with an oblique issue.
GM Alex Anthopoulos has said the team will commit money toward their goal of improving their pitching. Starting pitcher Zack Greinke could be part of that answer.
Greinke seems to prefer a smaller market, and he certainly wouldn't be under tremendous scrutiny in Toronto. He would team with Morrow to offer up a terrific tandem in the starting rotation, and certainly that's something that Anthopoulos can build on.
The Washington Nationals and first baseman Adam LaRoche hold a mutual option on his contract for the 2013 season. While the Nats would likely exercise the option, LaRoche is expected to decline.
That doesn't mean LaRoche doesn't want to stay in Washington, however.
“I would like to stick around for a few years,” LaRoche said. “Whether that’s two or four, that’ll be up to these guys. I would like to stay. I haven’t changed my position at all since I made it clear I wanted to stay here. I hope they get it done.”
It just makes sense to get this deal done. LaRoche was one of the most consistent producers in the Nationals offense all season with 33 HR and 100 RBI. Signing LaRoche allows the Nationals to continue with an outfield of Michael Morse in left, Bryce Harper in center and Jayson Werth in right.
That's a lineup that works for me as a fan.