Top Offseason Priorities for Every MLB Team
As the MLB offseason gets underway, almost every team has moves to make to better themselves for the 2013 season. On Saturday, free agents will be able to sign with teams other than their former clubs.
The Los Angeles Angels have already traded right-handed starting pitcher Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals.
Whether it's via trade or in free agency, what does each team have to do to position themselves for a run next season?
Read on to find out the answers.
The Baltimore Orioles were one of baseball's biggest surprises in 2012. They came out of absolutely nowhere to reach their first postseason since 1997.
Once they got to the playoffs, they did a good job taking the New York Yankees to a fifth and deciding game in the American League Division Series.
Even though their starting pitching was spectacular, it's their biggest need this offseason. Unlike any other team in the playoffs, the Orioles didn't have a true ace. They can't expect a repeat performance in 2013 without a pitcher who can be relied on every fifth day.
Looking into free agents, they can go after a guy like Edwin Jackson. Although he's played on plenty of teams, he's still only 29 years old and is very durable, rarely missing a start. Jackson's proven that he can pitch effectively and could add some depth to a thin starting staff in Baltimore.
Additionally, if Baltimore really wants to be competitive, they can go after St. Louis Cardinals ace Kyle Lohse, who is coming off a 16-win season.
Boston Red Sox
It's been an absolute mess in Beantown over the past two seasons. After the whole beer and chicken debacle at the end of 2011, the Boston Red Sox fired manager Bobby Valentine after one dreadful season.
The Red Sox have a bunch of holes to fill. They don't look like the Red Sox of the mid-2000s, winning two World Series in four seasons.
Their biggest need is to strengthen the left side of their infield. They have potential when considering Pedro Ciriaco at third and Jose Iglesias at shortstop. But that's not good enough for a proud franchise looking to get stronger.
The issue is that there are not a lot of options in free agency at those positions. Ty Wigginton and New York Giants playoff hero Marco Scutaro are the big names, unless the Red Sox consider bringing back one player: Kevin Youkilis.
Now that Bobby Valentine is gone, why not bring him back? He can still play and probably would come cheaper after a poor season in Boston and Chicago.
Another area of need would be the corner outfield spots.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have some huge concerns entering 2013. You could start off with the Alex Rodriguez situation, but in all likelihood, he's returning. He said as much following the Yankees sweep to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. That's a big problem considering the $114 million he's owed over the next five seasons.
Their infield is pretty much set, although the ankle injury to Derek Jeter is another uncertainty.
But looking at how they can improve as a team, they need some outfield help.
Would the Yankees ever think of giving a huge contract to the biggest MLB free agent this winter, Josh Hamilton? It wouldn't be a smart move. It would be a desperate move by general manager Brian Cashman.
Instead, the Yankees could look into guys like Michael Bourn or Angel Pagan. They are both less money for better value considering Hamilton's off-the-field issues.
If Mariano Rivera decides to hang it up, the closer position would become the team's top priority as Rafael Soriano declined his 2013 option today.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays missed the playoffs in 2012 but were still a fantastic team. They won 90 games in the very tough American League East.
The Rays will most likely lose out on their long-time center fielder, B.J. Upton this winter. He's a free agent and will cost too much for a small-market organization like Tampa Bay.
Falling into the same category of being too expensive is Angel Pagan. He would be the perfect replacement for Upton. Pagan fits right into to manager Joe Maddon's style of speed in the lineup and could lead off every game.
The question will be: Just how much is Pagan worth after helping the New York Giants win the World Series? Is he a $10-12 million a year player? Or is he closer to $6-10 million a year? If it's the first, the Rays could just re-sign B.J. Upton.
One thing Pagan wouldn't bring is the power Upton provides. Upton hit 28 home runs this season compared to only eight for Pagan.
Shortstop is another area of need for the Rays.
Toronto Blue Jays
When are the Toronto Blue Jays finally going to break through? They haven't made the playoffs in 20 years and seem to always have talent but just not enough of it. Plus, they play in baseball's toughest division.
There are multiple areas to look at on this team, including pitching. What they could really use is a bat in their outfield.
A player like Ryan Ludwick would fit perfectly in Toronto.
First, the Blue Jays like guys who hit a ton of home runs (like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion). Second, Ludwick seems like the type of player that would perform well on a small-market team in Canada.
Pitching-wise, help is also needed. Toronto's ace Ricky Romero had a major setback for unknown reasons, losing 14 games after a 15-win season in 2011.
Toronto does have some young up-and-comers, but if they can acquire good pitchers, the Blue Jays could have a very competitive team with the power in their lineup.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox made a good move by re-signing Jake Peavy to a two-year, $29 million contract. But even with that, they still need more starting pitchers. As certain as their front end of the rotation is, their back end rotation is just as uncertain.
Jose Quintana doesn't look like a bad pitcher, but he still has a lot to prove.
Meanwhile, Francisco Liriano shouldn't be brought back if the White Sox can snag another top pitcher.
That guy would be Kyle Lohse. Of course the St. Louis Cardinals will bring him back, as there is no reason for them not to. But if Chicago can outbid St. Louis, Lohse would be a fantastic addition.
The White Sox came so close to making the playoffs this season. They will keep themselves in contention with four solid starters and the young Quintana as their fifth starter.
Their offense isn't really an issue, although they do have an open spot at third base with Youkilis becoming a free agent.
Terry Francona was hired to be the Cleveland Indians manager, so all is right with the world, right? Not really and that's a shame.
It's time for the Indians to get serious about winning. They are the American League version of the New York Mets. Start off great in the first half, and fade into oblivion in the second half.
If you're an Indians fan, you have to hope bringing in Francona means that the team will do some serious spending this offseason. That means spending a lot of money on big name players like in the '90s.
What's their biggest offseason need? How about the whole team? Everyone can go, including shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Well maybe they can keep him, but still, an overhaul is needed.
This is the team that should sign Josh Hamilton. He needs to go to a smaller city that won't give him the urge to do ridiculous off-the-field things.
While they're at it, they should trade players like a Cabrera for top notch talent or at least some prospects that will help this team succeed in 2014 and beyond. Because let's face it, they aren't winning anything in 2013.
What the heck happened to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series? Did all of their top players forget a Triple Crown meant nothing without a championship? Maybe that's how Miguel Cabrera took things.
Anyway, whatever happened to Detroit doesn't mean they need to do too much this offseason. They need to fix what fell them when it mattered most. That's their bullpen. Perhaps the team with the biggest bullpen need is Detroit.
Jose Valverde is a free agent and is that a great thing for the Tigers. He continues to prove he can't close in big games.
The man who should be the Tigers closer in 2013 is Rafael Soriano. He's the obvious choice.
Why wouldn't they make him the closer? He stepped in and replaced the great Mariano Rivera this season, and has proven he can pitch in big games, whether in Tampa Bay or the Bronx.
The Tigers have the money he's looking for and will probably sign him for around three seasons at about $12-14 million a year.
Detroit also needs a fifth starter.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals made an interesting trade today with the Los Angeles Angels when they acquired starting pitcher Ervin Santana. It's not a bad move, but Santana has been going downhill recently and will turn 30 years old this offseason.
It shouldn't be the end of their moves as they clearly need upgrades at many positions. One place would be second base.
Chris Getz is getting the job done and therefore the Royals should look into signing Kelly Johnson. He's not the biggest name, but as previously mentioned, the middle infield spots don't have big free agents this winter.
At least Johnson provides power, hitting 16 home runs this season and would give Kansas City a jolt up the middle.
By declining the option on long-time closer Joakim Soria today, the Royals look to be making Greg Holland their full-time closer. They could use a second.
It feels like a very long time ago that the Minnesota Twins were winning the American League Central every season. It's only been two bad seasons but it's time for the Twins to turn this thing around while they still have a reasonably young core.
The M&M boys are only getting older, so what should the Twins do this winter? They need a lot of infield and pitching help.
If the Detroit Tigers don't re-sign Anibal Sanchez, the Twins should go after him and make him the team's ace or at least second starter to Scott Diamond.
At only 29 years old, Sanchez can help the Twins immediately win more games.
Regarding the infield, Minnesota could make a run at Youkilis to play third base or trade some of their talent to acquire younger options or to rebuild their minor league system.
Welcome to the American League West, Houston Astros. Now enjoy another 100+ loss season. After losing a combined 213 games in the last two seasons in the National League Central, how can the Astros compete with the likes of Texas, Oakland, and Los Angeles? The answer is: They can't.
Houston needs to rebuild right from the very top. They need to look into trading players like Fernando Martinez and maybe even Jose Altuve.
Although Altuve is a rising young second baseman, how can the Astros get better if they don't trade their top pieces?
There really isn't any answer for what their top priority should be this offseason. They can look to sign affordable players that can help them get some wins here and there, but they won't be ready for quite a while.
Any position other than second base this winter would be an upgrade.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels already made a move today, trading Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals. Their top priority this offseason will be making improvements to their starting rotation.
It all starts with picking up Dan Haren's $15.5 million club option. The only starters that will definitely be in the Angels rotation next season are Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
But, if the Angels don't bring Haren back, they will be in a little bit of trouble. That's because there aren't a lot of big name starters who are free agents. Perhaps they can look at a lesser pitcher like Shaun Marcum, but they really need Haren back along with Zack Greinke.
Could the Angels possibly make a trade considering they have so much hitting? They could.
The Angels have so much talent that it's unbelievable that they missed the playoffs, despite winning 89 games.
In the outfield, Torii Hunter is a free agent, so they'll need to make a decision in right field.
The Oakland A's were baseball's version of a Cinderella team in 2012. Everything went right for a team that was picked by many to finish dead last in the American League West. Instead, they won 94 games, en route to the division crown.
Even with all of that, they need to make improvements to keep it up in 2013. Their young rotation is almost set, but their infield is in need of some help.
Shortstop Stephen Drew is a free agent. Is he worth bringing back? He'll turn 30 years old before the start of next season and he really didn't do much in his 39 games played in Oakland.
Overall with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Athletics, Drew hit a measly .223 with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in. That's just not good enough production, even for a shortstop.
The biggest free agent at that position is Marco Scutaro. In all likelihood, he'll return to San Francisco, but the former Athletic would be a nice fit.
That's it. It's officially time for the Seattle Mariners to trade away Felix Hernandez. There's just no other alternatives at this point. The Mariners just can't win games nowadays and it's rebuilding time.
They need to trade King Felix to a team who needs starting pitching and has the talent to send to Seattle. Maybe the Red Sox for example. They can throw in Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury. That would be a great deal for both sides.
Looking at how the Mariners can improve while keeping Hernandez is a bit harder to examine. Similar to their new division-rival Houston Astros, any position can use an upgrade.
No player on the team is untouchable, though, to help the future.
After losing two consecutive World Series and failing to win a Wild Card playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles, is it time for Texas Rangers to blow the team up? Not even close. They still have plenty of talent to go back to the World Series in 2013.
They do need to fill in two positions to have a complete team and those are first base and center field.
It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Josh Hamilton won't be returning for many reasons. Off-the-field issues, injuries, and dollars to name a few.
So, where do the Rangers go to from here to fill that huge hole? Perhaps B.J Upton is the way to go. He won't hit 45 home runs a season, but he'll still hit at least 35 in the bandbox that is Rangers Ballpark.
A team that's built on power needs to bring in a power-hitting outfielder, not an Angel Pagan or Michael Bourn type.
At first base, the Rangers can either go with Michael Young, Mitch Moreland, or go after a free agent. James Loney or Carlos Pena would fit right in.
The Atlanta Braves are pretty much set for 2013. They are a solid team that doesn't have too many holes.
One area of concern this offseason will be center field. Michael Bourn is a free agent and the Braves should definitely bring him back. He'll only be 30 years old and he does a little bit of everything. He plays a terrific center field, steals bases, and even had 10 triples this season. His 57 runs batted in is great production from a leadoff hitter.
If Atlanta doesn't re-sign Bourn, it wouldn't make a lot of sense. Unless they want to shred some payroll, signing Pagan would probably cost the same price and Bourn is better.
Anther concern and probably the biggest is third base. Finally, the Braves will be without Chipper Jones as he retires. Brandon Inge, Kevin Youkilis, and Ty Wigginton are the biggest free agents at third base.
The Braves could also try trading for a third baseman, maybe using Kris Medlen in a deal. Is Medlen really going to outperform his magical 2012?
Those are among the questions the Braves will have to answer this winter.
More than any other team in 2012, the Miami Marlins were a huge flop. Even with a new stadium and new color scheme, they didn't play anywhere near their potential.
They traded Hanley Ramirez and this offseason traded away Heath Bell already. Now they can go ahead and start from scratch again in typical Marlins fashion by trading Jose Reyes.
There isn't any point in keeping him. He isn't a top player and there might be teams looking for a shortstop like the Red Sox (who've always wanted Reyes) that would be willing to trade some pitching to Miami.
The Marlins need help in the back end of the rotation and also could use a closer to replace Bell.
The problem is, they didn't draw too many fans this season, so who knows what they can spend. Maybe they can get a team to eat some of Reyes and even Buehrle's contracts.
New York Mets
How are the New York Mets going to get rid of him? He's a complete nightmare and the sole reason why the team can't acquire a top-notch player this offseason. He's been one of the biggest busts in MLB history.
In fact, the entire Mets outfield was a bust last season. Other than Scott Hairston, who's a free agent, the trio of Bay, Lucas Duda, and Andres Torres was atrocious.
The Mets keep selling Duda, saying he'll perhaps replace Bay as the starting left fielder in 2013, but he can go too. He might have no value, but even if he has to go to the minors, he can't be on the opening day roster.
Everyone knows about the Mets' money issues. But if they can spend money on one player, it should be Michael Bourn. He can play center field in a park with a spacious outfield and give the Mets speed, something they had none of this season.
It's not all a bust for the Mets, though. Their infield is solid as they picked up the $16 million club option on David Wright today. Their starters are also good.
They need some bullpen help which is always a crapshoot.
It was a season of back to earth for the Philadelphia Phillies who had cruised to five straight National League East titles prior to last season.
They still have a core that can be relied upon, but its also a very old core. Players like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and the starters are all well into their 30s.
So does that mean that this is the winter to break this team up? That could be the only way to go.
There are some very highly-paid players on the roster, but perhaps the Phillies can start by trading away Roy Halladay. It's looking like he might be losing a little bit of steam and Cole Hamels should be the ace now anyway.
If the infield is left alone, Philadelphia needs a whole new outfield and a third baseman.
They should certainly trade center fielder John Mayberry because they could use a much better player out there as well.
The only team with really no needs this offseason are the Washington Nationals. They can literally go into next season as is and win 90+ games again.
Their outfield is great. Their infield is great. Their bullpen is great. If there is one need, it's getting another starting pitcher to fit in with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
That pitcher would be Zack Greinke. He went 15-5 while making every start this season for the Brewers and Angels.
Although he might have some issues pitching in a place like the Nation's Capital, he pitched splendidly for the Los Angeles Angels, who play in a huge city.
If the Nationals could go into a season with the trio of Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Greinke, along with their hitting, they'd be the World Series favorites.
The Chicago Cubs lost over 100 games this season. That just doesn't sound right. It shouldn't happen again.
Entering this season, the Cubs will have not won a World Series in 105 years. So, it's not like making any moves will help them win one because it's not like they haven't made moves in a century. But, they need to do whatever it takes with a very thin free agency.
They can look to add some starting pitching along the lines of a Joe Blanton. He wasn't that good last season with the Phillies and Dodgers but it's probably the best the Cubs can do.
It would really help Chicago out if they can find a way out of Alfonso Soriano's last two seasons of his deal. That would give them some more flexibility when trying to look for higher-priced free agents.
Their infield is actually shaping up pretty good. They have the young Anthony Rizzo at first, Gold Glove winning second baseman Darwin Barney, and shortstop Starlin Castro.
But they need help basically everywhere else.
The Cincinnati Reds are similar to the Nationals in that they don't really need any upgrades. Maybe that's why both teams won 97+ games in 2012.
What the Reds really need is for Joey Votto to get his act together. He suffered through some injuries this season, but also didn't hit for enough power.
For a guy who signed for 13 years and $263 million, he has to put up Miguel Cabrera-like numbers. Maybe not a Triple Crown, but at least those types of numbers.
Looking at areas of need for Cincinnati, they can use some starting pitching. They have four guys who are set in the rotation, but can use a fifth starter.
Of course they don't need to go out of the organization for that.
The Milwaukee Brewers had a strange 2012 season. They started off poorly and then like a couple of other National League teams, they finished strong and almost made the playoffs.
Their bright spot was Japanese import Norichika Aoki, who had 37 doubles and an overall good rookie season at age 29.
But the Brewers really need a pitching overhaul. They had starters who had nice seasons and low earned run averages, but are any of them other than Yovani Gallardo really reliable?
Milwaukee can hit, there's no question about that, and they can stick with their current crop of starters.
They really don't have too many other needs, because they have solid players all around the depth chart.
What a heartbreaking season it was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had their fans thinking they were headed to the postseason for the first time since 1992. Instead, they had their 20th straight losing season.
They did it for two-thirds of the season with a weird combination of players. Other than Andrew McCutchen, none really stand out but it was enough for awhile.
This offseason, after proving what they can do with a little more help, they should get a nice player for a change. Their biggest need is outfield help, and there are two players they should go after.
The top one is Nick Swisher. After spending four seasons with the Yankees, Swisher proved he can hit and for power.
They can also try to sign Scott Hairston. He had a great season as a role player with the Mets, hitting 20 home runs.
The Pirates should sign one of these guys, if not both.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals came so close to being repeat world champions in 2012. It didn't happen because the Giants were destined to win, but no worries.
The Cardinals have a wonderful roster of talented players with minimal needs that include starting pitching help.
One of the keys will be how Chris Carpenter pitches as he'll turn 38 years old in April. Assuming he's fine, there's one move St. Louis must make. Bring back Kyle Lohse.
He was extremely valuable this season, winning 16 games and really blossoming at age 33. If they do bring him back, they will need one more pitcher.
They have Jake Westbrook under contract for two more seasons and he wasn't bad. He could be the team's fifth starter.
Other than that, they are set everywhere else for 2013.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were a surprise and a disappointment all rolled into one last season. They were a surprise because they made a late playoff push. They were a disappointment because they should've been better anyway. That means they were a .500 team at 81-81.
What do they have to do to improve for 2013? It should all start with their right fielder, Justin Upton. It might be a good time to trade him considering his numbers were down, but he still hit .280 with 17 homers.
Maybe a good deal would be trading him to the New York Mets for Jon Niese and/or R.A. Dickey. It would make sense for both teams. The Mets need outfield help, and the Diamondbacks could always use more starting pitching.
To replace Upton in right field they could sign Nick Swisher or Hairston.
If they don't go down that route, they'll need to find a shortstop who can play every game opposed to John McDonald.
When you look at the Colorado Rockies and wonder why they lost 98 games, you probably would point to the infield. After all, they're all a bunch of no names. But, you'd be wrong.
Their infield has four players, all of whom are young and had pretty good seasons when they played.
The biggest issue for the Rockies was their starting pitching. It was the worst staff in baseball and they were so bad, manager Jim Tracy used them for only four innings per start in most games.
Colorado is going to need a whole new rotation and it should begin with a pitcher like Joe Saunders if the Baltimore Orioles don't re-sign him.
There isn't a whole lot the Rockies will be able to do because of the thin pitching market unless they part with those aforementioned infielders.
Maybe trade Josh Rutledge or DJ LeMahieu. Anything to try and acquire some solid starting pitching. Of course those players would probably only bring back a low-level minor leaguer, but maybe that player will help in a few years.
This team is clearly rebuilding and they haven't even named a new manager yet.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers will have to answer a lot of questions this winter. First off, it's good news that the team finally has cash to spend with new ownership. Now they just have to spend it wisely.
The first question will be, is Josh Beckett worth keeping? He pitched much better with the Dodgers, posting a 2.93 ERA in seven starts after coming over from Boston. He has two years left on his contract, so should he stay in LA?
How about the outfield? Obviously Matt Kemp is a mainstay, but how about Shane Victorino, who's a free agent? He didn't do much with the Dodgers, so should Los Angeles look to bring someone in to play left field?
They could go with a Nate McLouth or Melky Cabrera who would be low-risk, high-reward type of investments.
Of course they could always entertain giving Josh Hamilton a huge contract but he shouldn't really play in a city like LA.
Second and third base are also question marks.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have a strange mix, but also the type that you build around. Their top player, third baseman Chase Headley, had a breakout season and even won a Gold Glove.
The team doesn't have a whole lot of power, mostly because of their awful outfield dimensions. It's hard for them to attract free agents, although Headley hitting 31 home runs proves it can be done.
The direction of the team, though, is unclear at this point, but their starting pitching isn't bad at the top.
Their top priorities should be signing some outfielders with power. They could bring back Scott Hairston or they can continue to go with Cameron Maybin who's been a bust thus far in his career.
It's hard to gauge what they'll do, but they aren't as far away as people think.
San Francisco Giants
We've reached the final team and the one that has absolutely no needs this offseason.
As they attempt to win their third title in four seasons, the San Francisco Giants only need to bring back two key free agents who helped them win another World Series.
One of those players is Marco Scutaro, who carried them to the World Series in the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The other is Angel Pagan who should receive a long-term deal. He proved he can leadoff and play a great center field in his first season in San Francisco.
If they bring those two players back, they're fine as currently constituted.