MLB Free Agency 2013: Updating All 30 Teams' Biggest Need Still Left Unaddressed
The MLB free agency class of 2013 features dozens of players with varying degrees of skill. Thus far, however, only a handful of those available have been signed.
That could change as soon as next week.
With the MLB annual winter meetings set to begin in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, teams will indeed be on the hunt for players that can address their needs.
Owners, general managers and many other team officials will be on hand, as well as the agents of players left on the open market. Opportunities will be aplenty as each team attempts to fill each available roster spots with the best possible choice.
We will take a look at each team as currently constituted and attempt to identify their biggest need. We will also offer up suggestions as to who may be the best logical candidate to fill that need.
Arizona Diamondbacks: An Everyday Shortstop
The Arizona Diamondbacks currently have Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald on their roster, yet none of them are considered candidates for the everyday role at shortstop.
The Diamondbacks had been rumored to be interested in free-agent infielder Jeff Keppinger, who hit .325 with nine home runs and 40 RBI for the Tampa Bay Rays last season.
However, that was before Keppinger fractured his fibula falling down a flight of stairs at his home.
Keppinger is expected to be fully recovered in time for spring training, so the interest could still be there.
The Diamondbacks are also negotiating with Japanese free-agent shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Nakajima has hit .302 with a .367 OBP in his 11-year career with the Saitama Seibu Lions. How that translates to MLB is anyone's guess.
Early last week, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reported that the Detroit Tigers were hopeful of signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. If they were successful, they would then attempt to work out a deal with the Diamondbacks for the services of current shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Best Possible Solution: Signing Nakajima could be a good play here for the Diamondbacks. Nakajima has some power with solid on-base ability, and he likely won't break the bank.
Atlanta Braves: Replacement for Michael Bourn
Free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn is likely not heading back to Atlanta next season, and the Braves seem to have their replacement in sight.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com, B.J. Upton is that man, and the Braves may have the upper hand in negotiations.
Braves-Phillies in fascinating bidding war for BJ Upton with mystery team...Braves considered in slight lead with final offers due this week— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 25, 2012
However, there are plenty of other suitors out there for Upton as well, above and beyond the three possible choices brought up by Bowden.
While Upton might be the Braves' No. 1 option, GM Frank Wren has said that other options are being explored as well, including Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Bourn.
“We like him (Upton),” Wren said last week. “But this time of year you’ve got a lot of lines in the water. You’re not sure which fish you’re going to catch. So you have to make sure that you have enough lines out there that you catch a fish. And we’re very much in that mode. We’re checking. We’re involved on just about everything, every center fielder that we like.”
Best Possible Solution: Upton is a great fit for the Braves.
He's two years younger than Bourn and brings speed, power and athleticism. In addition, he adds a quality right-handed bat to a lineup loaded with lefties and helps even things off along with Dan Uggla on the right side of the plate.
Update: Multiple sources are reporting that Upton and the Braves agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million deal, pending a physical.
Baltimore Orioles: Top of the Rotation Starter
The Baltimore Orioles were not a major player at last year's winter meetings, and they may not be again next week.
Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette appears to be content in spending judiciously and building from within.
That being said, however, there are holes that internal candidates may not be able to fill.
Designated hitter, first base and a front-line starting pitcher will be the likely targets for Duquette, either via trade or free agency. He may be attempting to fill his first-base need right now in ongoing negotiations with Mark Reynolds.
The Orioles have also indicated their desire to bring back Joe Saunders, who provided quality innings for them down the stretch and in the playoffs last season. Saunders' value could have been enhanced by the Jeremy Guthrie signing as well.
Best Possible Solution: Signing Saunders makes sense here.
He adds a solid veteran presence to a young stable of starters in Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Steve Johnson. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen round out what should be a very good starting corps.
Boston Red Sox: First Base
Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was very clear about what he'll be looking for at the winter meetings next week in Nashville.
"Outfield, first base and rotation," Cherington said. "I don't know that I can put them in order; we just want to improve those areas."
Cherington set about taking care of part of the outfield with the signing of Jonny Gomes to a two-year contract.
Cherington is still left without a first baseman, and they could fill that need with free-agent catcher Mike Napoli.
Napoli was in Boston over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the Red Sox view him more as an option at first base.
It was reported earlier this month that the Red Sox also had interest in free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche as well. But he could more of a Plan B option at this point with the Sox pursuing Napoli aggressively.
Best Possible Solution: Napoli would be a great fit. He has a career 1.107 OPS at Fenway Park.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Red Sox have plans to go after Napoli, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross, taking care of the majority of their positional needs.
Heyman also points out that the versatility of Swisher and Napoli are major factors. Swisher could shift from right field to first base on the days that Napoli is behind the plate. The Sox also have Jerry Sands on the roster, and he adds versatility with his ability to play both first and left field.
Chicago Cubs: Starting Pitching
The Chicago Cubs ended the 2012 season with a 4.51 team ERA, good for third-worst in the National League.
The main culprit was their rotation, posting a 4.52 ERA and logging the third-lowest amount of innings of any NL team.
Quality starts is what any organization desires, and for the Cubs, they don't have many options internally to achieve that kind of quality.
Only one starter logged more than 170 innings last season—Jeff Samardzija. He was also the only pitcher to complete a game as well.
That's likely the area of need that general manager Jed Hoyer is most focused on.
One more should do the trick.
Best Possible Solution: Shaun Marcum.
Hoyer gave no indication he was done after the Feldman signing.
“We’re still going to continue to look for talent,” Hoyer said. “If that talent is in the rotation, then we wouldn’t consider ourselves done. We would certainly add someone else. But we’re excited about the two guys we’ve added so far and we think they’ll provide a lot of quality innings for us.
“As far as where the rotation stands right now, we’re still looking to get better, still looking to add talent all over the team.”
Marcum is a guy the Cubs have targeted and could be had for the right price, considering his elbow issues last season. Familiarity with manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio could be a factor as well.
Chicago White Sox: Third Base
With Kevin Youkilis now a free agent, the best internal candidate to fill the everyday role at third base for the Chicago White Sox is Brent Morel.
They don't seem too thrilled by that proposition.
Assistant general manager Buddy Bell didn't offer up a glowing compliment of Morel at the GM meetings held earlier this month.
"We're certainly counting on him to be able to do something for us," Bell said.
Yes, something would be good. But the White Sox are counting on better than something.
To that end, third base is clearly a target. While the White Sox turned down Youkilis' $13 million option for the 2013 season, it doesn't mean he's out of play.
General manager Rick Hahn would love to bring Youkilis back. His clubhouse presence and on-base capabilities were much appreciated by White Sox staff.
However, options at third base on the free-agent market are limited, so Youkilis is in high demand.
Best Possible Solution: Give Brent Morel another shot now that he's healthy.
Signing Youkilis might be a bit of a risk at this point, especially after a down year offensively (.235 average, .745 OPS) and the injury bug that has bitten Youkilis over the last three seasons. There are no other viable options that make sense for the White Sox on the open market.
There was talk earlier this month that the Sox could use their starting pitching depth to fill some holes, including third base. However, there's been no recent chatter to back up that claim.
Cincinnati Reds: Outfield
The Cincinnati Reds may be looking at filling two holes—left field and center field.
Left fielder Ryan Ludwick declined his $5 million option for the 2013 season. It's certainly understandable given the numbers he put up last year, a .275 average with 26 home runs and 80 RBI, and for just $2.5 million.
In center field, Drew Stubbs continues to be an enigma, hitting just .213 with a 30.5 percent strikeout rate.
Now that B.J. Upton has agreed to a five-year contract with the Atlanta Braves, the Reds could turn to free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino.
The Reds are among one of seven teams interested in Victorino, who hit just .245 with a .667 OPS last season.
With Upton off the table, Michael Bourn could be in play for the Reds as well. General manager Walt Jocketty downplayed any interest in Bourn earlier this month.
However, since when has any GM ever been completely honest with the media?
Best Possible Solution: Bourn is the absolute best solution here. And re-signing Ludwick as well.
The Reds were horrible at the leadoff position with just a .254 on-base percentage in 2012. Bourn also adds speed and terrific defense up the middle as well.
As for Ludwick, he seemed to find a comfort zone in Cincinnati. If the Reds can do a two-year deal with an option for 2015, it could be enough to keep him in their lineup.
Cleveland Indians: Starting Pitching
The needs for the Cleveland Indians are plentiful—first base, designated hitter, left field and starting pitching.
But everything starts with pitching, and the Indians are certainly lacking in that department. Starters last year posted a 5.25 ERA, second-worst in the American League. They also logged the second-fewest innings and recorded the second-lowest amount of strikeouts.
Not a pretty picture.
Earlier this month, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com said that the Indians were willing to offer up shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo for trade, but only if they got back front-line starters in return.
Best Possible Solution: That's not an easy answer, especially considering the state of the Indians right now.
Their payroll for next season was described as "fluid." Considering they only drew 1.6 million fans to Progressive Field and coming off a 94-loss season, owners Larry and Paul Dolan won't be inclined to spend big dollars.
In fact, the payroll could be somewhere around last year's figure of $65 million. While there's a bit of room with the salaries of Travis Hafner, Roberto Hernandez and Grady Sizemore coming off the books, they'll need money to commit to arbitration-eligible players as well.
Best guess here is that GM Chris Antonetti does explore some trade options to upgrade his pitching staff. Big signings just aren't going to happen.
Colorado Rockies: Starting Pitching
Well, considering the staff ERA of 5.81 from their starting rotation, it shouldn't come as any surprise what the biggest need is for the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies are clearly on the lookout for help. Troy Renck of the Denver Post said on Tuesday that the Rockies have interest in a number of free-agent pitchers, including right-hander Kevin Correia and left-hander Jeff Francis.
Correia sports a career 3.62 ERA at Coors Field.
At this point, anyone with an ERA under 5.00 in Denver is a viable option.
With the Miami Marlins in a state of flux with their roster following their mega-deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, Renck said two weeks ago that the Rockies could be interested in Ricky Nolasco.
Best Possible Solution: Grab Nolasco from Miami and sign Correia. Nolasco can't veto the trade, and Correia at least pitches with a pulse in Denver.
Detroit Tigers: Closer
The Detroit Tigers are likely saying goodbye to closer Jose Valverde.
If one was to believe general manager Dave Dombrowski, the job could go to unproven talent Bruce Rondon.
"This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer," Dombrowski said. "Normally, you're not going to thrust that in a young guy's hands and say automatically, 'That's your job,' but it would not surprise me if he earned that job.
"There are not many arms like this. And he cherishes that kind of role."
This is the same Bruce Rondon that has yet to log a game in Major League Baseball.
Raise your hand if you're buying that one.
Best Possible Solution: The Tigers are a team built to win right now. Owner Mike Ilitich would like to bring a World Series title back to Detroit before his time on Earth is up.
Rafael Soriano is on the radar, and he offers the Tigers the best shot at winning that title in 2013. Rondon is clearly the future in Detroit, but Soriano is the present.
Houston Astros: Designated Hitter
It's safe to say that with a team largely made up of youngsters looking to make a name, the Houston Astros have needs all over the diamond.
But with their move to the American League West Division in 2013, they will absolutely need a designated hitter who can produce consistently.
The Astros have reached out to former Astro Lance Berkman about filling that role. However, according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, three other teams have reached out to Berkman as well.
Lance Berkman says interest from 4 teams (Rays, Phillies, Astros & Red Sox) is in 'tire-kicking mode'— Joseph Duarte (@Joseph_Duarte) November 19, 2012
Berkman has expressed interest in returning to his former home, but would do so only if the money makes sense.
Kansas City Royals: More Rotation Help
The Kansas City Royals have already taken steps to improve their starting rotation. The acquisition of Ervin Santana in late October and the signing of Jeremy Guthrie to a three-year contract last week was just the start.
More work is needed, however.
The Royals have been all over the map in terms of extending their search to find a top-shelf starter.
On Thursday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com revealed that the Royals have talked to the New York Mets about starter and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Earlier in the week, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star threw out the suggestion that the Royals could dangle top prospect Wil Myers in a deal to land a quality starter, such as Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox or James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Royals are also calling teams in an effort to trade current starters Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen. Both moves would free up payroll space in the Royals' efforts to land a top-shelf starter.
Best Possible Solution: The Royals are in a position of strength with a solid core of young prospects—currently the fifth-best farm system in the majors, according to ESPN—so the trade market may be their best bet in their quest for a front-line starter.
Shields or Lester could certainly help. Shields could be more costly with a better recent two-year stretch than Lester, but if GM Dayton Moore can pull off a deal without giving up Myers or any current position players, it's a deal worth making.
The biggest issue in acquiring Shields is that the Rays will be looking for position players who can contribute now.
Moore is likely going to be a busy man at next week's winter meetings.
Los Angeles Angels: Additional Rotation Help
With the trade of Ervin Santana and the decision to decline the option on Dan Haren's contract for the 2013 season, the Los Angeles Angels only have two starters under contract.
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are the sole returning starters for the Halos. Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards are both under team control and could provide help, but the goal for the Angels is obvious—re-signing Zack Greinke.
General manager Jerry Dipoto traded three top-25 organizational prospects in order to acquire Greinke last July. He also cleared payroll space with the jettisoning of both Santana and Haren, and with the decision not to bring back Torii Hunter.
The problem now in signing Greinke is that Dipoto will have stiff competition from his Southern California neighbors, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweeted on Tuesday that the Dodgers were "committed" to out-bid all other teams for the services of Greinke.
The Angels are also looking at other possibilities, including free-agent starter Ryan Dempster. In addition, the Miami Marlins would love to trade for Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos, so a return package including pitching (Ricky Nolasco?) could be a possibility as well.
Best Possible Solution: At this point, Dipoto is all-in on bidding for Greinke, and likely hoping that Greinke likes his situation in Anaheim.
In addition, making a deal with the Marlins that includes Nolasco in a return package makes sense as well. Nolasco is only 29 and could likely use a change of scenery. A bigger home ballpark would be helpful as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Just One More Starter, Please
The Los Angeles Dodgers have six veteran starters under contract for the 2013 season.
They want more.
It's safe to say that the Dodgers are looking at every available pitcher at this point.
Either through free agency or the trade route, the Dodgers could well be making noise at next week's winter meetings.
For Dodgers president Stan Kasten, payroll is not a concern right now.
"I am focusing on building the best team we can be,'' Kasten told USA TODAY Sports, "and where exactly the payroll will be, we'll worry about that later. This particular phase we're in is building and returning the Dodgers to greatness."
Best Possible Solution: The Dodgers are in all-in mode in their pursuit of top free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com.
Dodgers appear to be committed to outbid the Angels, Rangers & Nationals to land Zack Greinke according to sources— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) November 27, 2012
Considering the Dodgers are worrying about payroll later, Los Angeles Angels GM Jerry Dipoto should definitely be concerned. Greinke would be the ideal No. 2 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and would give the Dodgers a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation for years to come.
Miami Marlins: Power Bat
With the mini fire sale conducted by the Miami Marlins in recent months, holes are aplenty throughout the roster.
However, the Marlins appear focused on finding a power bat to complement right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.
President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the Marlins' focus is on finding that bat to hit behind Stanton.
"We want someone to hit behind him, someone to offer more power," Beinfest said. "Giancarlo represents the power on our team."
Best Possible Solution: Considering the fact that the Marlins appear to be of no mind to spend big dollars, combined with the fact that their credibility has taken a huge hit, the trade market appears to be their best bet.
Beinfest and his staff will be hard-pressed to find that bat.
Milwaukee Brewers: Bullpen Help
The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers bullpen featured the worst ERA (4.66) in the majors.
Francisco Rodriguez is likely off to parts unknown, and closer John Axford ended the season on a high note after a disastrous start.
As the Brewers prepare for the winter meetings next week, finding help for Axford will be high on their priority list.
Best Possible Solutions: Sign both Sean Burnett and Mike Adams.
Burnett and Adams offer a terrific lefty-righty option that can help secure that bridge between starters and closer Axford.
Burnett has been money for the Washington Nationals for the past three-plus seasons. While Adams is recovering from surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he's been among the most reliable right-handed relief options in the majors since 2008.
Minnesota Twins: Starting Pitching
It's certainly no secret by now that the Minnesota Twins are on the hunt for starters.
After posting a league-worst 5.40 ERA last season, the Twins have already cast a wide net.
According to Darren Wolfson of ESPN1500.com, the Twins have been in contact with around 20 free-agent pitchers thus far.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Ryan Dempster and Brandon McCarthy.
In signing Dempster, the Twins get a reliable veteran whose stuff works well at home in Target Field, and can help groom the youngsters as well.
In McCarthy, they get a lively arm who has vastly improved his command. In addition, McCarthy's injury history should keep his asking price affordable, and if he stays healthy, it's a win-win for the Twins.
New York Mets: Outfield Help
The New York Mets got the short end of the stick in a trade with the San Francisco Giants last season, and now, one of the principal figures in that trade is likely looking for a new employer.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the Mets plan to non-tender center fielder Andres Torres.
Torres hit just .230 with three home runs and 35 RBI following his arrival from the Giants. Along with free-agent outfielder Scott Hairston, the Mets now have two major holes to fill in their outfield.
Filling those holes will be their priority at the winter meetings.
Best Possible Solution: Explore trade options.
The Mets could seek out the Detroit Tigers and work out a deal for outfielder Brennan Boesch, or even Avisail Garcia. Boesch is under team control for three more seasons, Garcia even longer. Boesch will likely be looking at a lot of bench time in Detroit with the recent signing of Torii Hunter. Ditto for Garcia.
The Mets clearly aren't out of the woods, especially if they sign David Wright to a reported seven-year, $124 million extension. Options like Boesch and Garcia are likely their best bets.
In addition, they should also re-sign Hairston. The current trio of Lucas Duda in left field, Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field and Mike Baxter in right field are all left-handed hitters.
Keeping Hairston's strong right-handed bat (20 HR and 57 RBI in 2012) certainly isn't a bad option.
New York Yankees: Outfield Depth
The New York Yankees have two outfielders returning next season—Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.
After that, it's anyone's guess.
With Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones all hitting free agency, the Yankees will have their hands full in deciding what to do for the 2013 season and beyond.
It had been reported by Japan's Nikkan Sports (h/t Daigo Fujiwara) that Suzuki and the Yankees had reached agreement on a deal.
However, that was later refuted by Sweeny Murti of WFAN Radio.
Am told Ichiro deal is not done, just rumor. It is clear Yanks have interest in bringing him back, so entirely possible at some point.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) November 27, 2012
In addition, The Yankees are one of seven teams interested in free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Suzuki and Victorino.
Both outfielders offer versatility—they can capably cover all three spots, both have speed and both can offer help at the top of the lineup.
Manager Joe Girardi will have several lineup options in terms of match-ups, and neither player is going to break the bank, keeping in lockstep with Hal Steinbrenner's plan to keep payroll under the luxury-tax threshold.
Oakland Athletics: Shortstop
With the Oakland Athletics declining the $10 million option on shortstop Stephen Drew's contract for the 2013 season, their obvious need was created.
The A's and Drew have continued talking, however, although there's been nothing new to report from either side in recent weeks. Drew has received interest from a number of teams—certainly no surprise given the weak free-agent market at that position.
Last week, Buster Olney of ESPN.com said that the A's might have interest in going after Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. However, the Indians are asking for pitching in return, something Oakland won't be willing to give up.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Drew. Drew's production was significantly better with Oakland than with the Diamondbacks, and a full offseason should help to strengthen Drew's ankle as well.
If they can get Drew for two years, it might just be enough time for young prospect Addison Russell to get the seasoning he needs and be ready to impact the major league roster in 2015.
Philadelphia Phillies: Outfield
The pool of outfielders to choose from is now a bit smaller for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Two outfielders have recently gone by the wayside in terms of availability—B.J. Upton and Denard Span.
The Phillies are one of at least six teams interested in free-agent right fielder Nick Swisher.
In addition, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently had a chat with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com and brought up Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino as possibilities for center field.
Best Possible Solution: Call me crazy, but I don't rule out the Phillies going after Josh Hamilton. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com said as much on Wednesday.
"Watch out for #phillies to surprise everyone and sign Hamilton,'' said one prominent agent. A scout told me the same thing.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 29, 2012
There is no question the Phillies' third-place finish in the NL East and .500 record last season just doesn't sit well with either Amaro or anyone else.
This is a move that wouldn't surprise me in the least. At the very least, Hamilton adds additional power along with the bats of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. He can also play left field, paving the way for the Phillies to make an additional move in center.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Catcher
The Pittsburgh Pirates declined the 2013 option on the contract of catcher Rod Barajas for $3.5 million. Barajas hit just .206 with 11 home runs in 2012.
That leaves the Pirates with just Michael McKenry behind the plate. While McKenry filled in capably in a part-time role (.233 average with 12 HR in 88 games), he is not viewed as a full-time option.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Russell Martin.
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Pirates have offered Martin a three-year, $22 million deal.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington would not confirm the rumor, but did offer up what he's looking for behind the plate.
“We’d like to get a guy who can handle a pitching staff and do the job defensively,” Huntington said. “That’s the easiest area on the team for us to upgrade. But we also need offensive production. It’s hard to find a player who can do both.”
Yeah, pretty much sounds like Martin to me.
Update: According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Pirates and Martin have agreed to terms on a contract, pending a physical.
CBS Sports reported the deal to be for two years and $17 million.
San Diego Padres: Starting Pitching
Armed with new ownership and a grocery list, San Diego Padres general manager Josh Byrnes will be heading to the MLB winter meetings on Monday with one main goal in mind—find starting pitching.
MLB.com beat reporter Corey Brock tweeted on Tuesday that the Padres could be more inclined to use the trade block rather than free agency to add pitching.
The #Padres have add more talks on trade front than FA. Have some bullpen/corner INF depth if they put together in package for pitching.— Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) November 27, 2012
Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune told fans in a chat session that the Padres are armed with a list of pitchers they're considering.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Dan Haren and trade for Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco.
Haren is from the area and worked with GM Byrnes while the two were with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In Nolasco, the Padres get a pitcher packed with potential who could benefit from a change of scenery.
San Francisco Giants: Center Field
Now that the dust has settled on the 2012 season and the San Francisco Giants have come down from their high of winning the World Series championship, work needs to be done in order to set up a repeat.
Giants GM Brian Sabean has some decisions to make regarding second base and center field. The Giants have expressed confidence in re-signing playoff hero Marco Scutaro, so the opening in center still remains.
Best Possible Solution: That's a simple answer—re-sign Angel Pagan.
Pagan was terrific for the Giants throughout the 2012 season, hitting .288 with 29 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.
At just 31 years of age, Pagan can continue providing the same type of production for at least the next two or three seasons, and won't cost nearly as much as a Michael Bourn or Josh Hamilton.
Seattle Mariners: Offense, Offense and More Offense
After finishing dead last in runs scored for the fourth straight season in the American League, the Seattle Mariners are pretty focused on what they want to find this offseason—offense.
Best Possible Solution: Sign Nick Swisher and trade for Alex Gordon.
Swisher brings consistent offensive production and versatility. If first baseman Justin Smoak continues to falter offensively, Swisher slides to first.
Gordon brings Gold Glove Award-winning defense along with a bat that led the league in doubles (51) in 2012. In addition, Gordon is signed to a relatively team-friendly contract for the next three seasons. Seattle has the prospects that can entice the Royals to make the deal.
St. Louis Cardinals: Stronger Relief Support
The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2012 season with only one left-handed reliever making at least 25 appearances, the first such occurrence since the 2000 season.
Marc Rzepczynski made 70 appearances and posted a 4.24 ERA, and general manager John Mozeliak would like to get him some additional help.
“Rzep’s peripherals were still pretty good, but there is some external variables that affect him that we need to make sure as an organization we get right,” Mozeliak said. “I think usage is critical. I think having another lefty made him feel better. When he was a one-man band out there, he didn’t pitch as well. That’s why we need to find someone.”
Best Possible Solution: Sign Mike Gonzalez. He won't break the bank and lefties hit only .179 against him last season for the Washington Nationals.
Signing Gonzalez allows Mozeliak to achieve his goal affordably and efficiently.
Tampa Bay Rays: Offense
The Tampa Bay Rays signed infielder Mike Fontenot on Wednesday to a one-year deal. However, Fontenot is not the answer to the overall problem for the Rays—offensive production.
The Rays are also one of several teams interested in free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino. However, Victorino comes nowhere close to the offense now missing with the departure of B.J. Upton.
Best Possible Solution: The Rays definitely need to think bold in terms of acquiring an impact bat. That boldness could come to fruition via the trade market.
Rumors are swirling about the Kansas City Royals dangling top prospect Wil Myers in order to acquire a front-line starter—someone like James Shields.
This is a deal I make in a heartbeat. Myers in the same lineup with Evan Longoria for the foreseeable future, and under team control for the next six years? Yes, a deal I absolutely make.
Texas Rangers: Replacements for Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton, Maybe
The Texas Rangers are looking at the possibility of losing two key offensive contributors—Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli.
Napoli has already drawn considerable interest, and the asking price could become just a bit too rich for the Rangers' liking.
For Hamilton, the price and length of the potential contract continue to be topics of heated discussion. It was revealed on Thursday that the Rangers have maintained contact with Hamilton's agent this offseason.
According to a report from the Associated Press:
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels says he’s maintained contact with Josh Hamilton’s agent, and the slugger’s free agency process has gone as expected so far.
Daniels said Thursday that the plan had always been for Hamilton to test the market and then “once he had a sense of that, would circle back with us.”
Best Possible Solution: Signing Hamilton. It's simply the best place for Hamilton. He already has a support system in place, both he and the Rangers know what to expect from each other, and the Rangers have flourished ever since Hamilton came to town.
Toronto Blue Jays: Bullpen Upgrades
Clearly the most active team thus far in the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays have already taken care of several needs.
In a recent interview in Toronto, general manager Alex Anthopoulos hinted at what he'll be looking to accomplish at next week's MLB winter meetings.
"We still can add depth in our rotation, still get better in the bullpen," he said. "Offensively, I feel pretty good about the team. I feel pretty good about the bench. So I’d say bullpen and rotation depth, and if we can upgrade some other spot in the rotation or upgrade a position player, sure we’d look to do that.”
Best Possible Solution: Sign Koji Uehara.
Uehara was terrific down the stretch last season for the Texas Rangers, posting a nifty 1.75 ERA in 37 appearances. It's an affordable signing for a team clearly looking to win now.
Washington Nationals: Back-End Starter for Rotation
The Washington Nationals took care of one important need on Thursday, acquiring center fielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for fireballing pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
That leaves one more need—a back-end starter for the rotation.
Best Possible Solution: Re-sign John Lannan.
When the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson last year and moved Ross Detwiler into the rotation, it left no room for Lannan. It's hard to say that Lannan pitched himself out of a spot, posting a 4.00 ERA over the previous five seasons.
A rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Detwiler and Lannan still looks pretty potent.
The Nationals have checked in on other pitchers, but are they really necessary? They'll need to look for replacements for Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez, if both free-agent relievers sign with other teams. I'd be more concerned with filling those slots first then spending big dollars on a starter.
Lannan is a known commodity, he's just 28 years of age and he's affordable.
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.
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