The annual MLB Winter Meetings kick off on Monday. All 30 teams will converge on Nashville, Tennessee for four days of wheeling and dealing.
Every team enters the meetings with clear-cut needs. And as we're already over a month into the offseason, there are plenty of rumors to provide a jumping-off point for speculation.
Here is my take on the one move that each team should try to make at this year's Winter Meetings, as they look to position themselves for the 2013 season.
After trading Stephen Drew last August, the Diamondbacks have no clear option at shortstop.
Light-hitting Cliff Pennington was acquired in a trade with the Athletics, and the team still has veterans Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald on the roster. But for a team looking to contend for a playoff spot, there is certainly room for improvement.
Cabrera would be a major offensive upgrade and would give an already solid Diamondbacks lineup another weapon. The Indians want young starting pitching, while the Diamondbacks have plenty of it. So the two sides would appear to be a fit.
The Braves solved one offseason problem when they signed B.J. Upton to replace free agent Michael Bourn in center field last week.
Now they need to decide how to approach the retirement of Chipper Jones.
With few third base options on the market, the most likely scenario would be to sign a left fielder, then move Martin Prado in to play third.
There are a handful of potential fits in left field, including Nick Swisher and Cody Ross. But I think the best fit is Ludwick, who is coming off a .275 BA, 26 HR and 80 RBI season. He can likely be had on a reasonably priced two-year deal, and would be a solid addition to the middle of the Braves lineup.
The Orioles battled all season to find a five-man rotation that worked. While they finally found the right combination near the end of the season, they would still be wise to add another arm this offseason.
While they likely don't have the money to spend on someone like Zack Greinke, a high-upside guy like McCarthy could make a lot of sense at a discount price.
McCarthy has pitched like an ace over the past two seasons in Oakland, but has dealt with arm problems and a freak head injury last season to make just 43 starts over that span.
The Red Sox have a ton of available money and holes up and down their roster, so they could be as active as anyone on the free agent market.
They'll likely try to avoid getting locked into any extremely lengthy deals. But someone like Swisher can provide some defensive versatility and will likely take no longer than a four-year commitment.
Swisher could either fill the team's void at first base or serve as a corner outfielder, depending on who else the team signs. Cody Ross and Mike Napoli are also among the team's top targets (h/t CBSSports).
The Cubs have already bolstered their starting rotation with the additions of Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, but adding a third starter in Marcum could make sense.
With Baker and Feldman signed to one-year deals and Matt Garza in the final year of his contract, the Cubs don't have much beyond Jeff Samardzija looking past 2013.
Marcum dealt with some injuries last season, which will likely drive down his value. However, when healthy, he's proven to be a solid No. 3 starter. He could be brought aboard as more of a building block—rather than a patchwork—piece.
The White Sox biggest hole for the first half of last season was third base, as Brent Morel was ineffective before going down with an injury and Orlando Hudson was not the answer, either.
Youkilis was acquired to fill the void on June 24, and he hit .236, slugging 15 HR with 46 RBI in 80 games with the South Siders.
Those numbers aren't great, but he is easily the best option on the market at third base. If the White Sox want to avoid that position being a black hole in the lineup again, they'd be wise to bring Youkilis back.
The Reds are in need of a leadoff hitter and an outfielder to replace the departed Ryan Ludwick this offseason, and one intriguing option in the trade market is Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.
According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Reds are interested in Fowler in an effort to improve their .581 OPS from the leadoff spot last season. In turn, the Rockies are interested in Reds starter Homer Bailey.
With the move of Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, the Reds are in a position where they could move a starter. While Bailey looked great last season in going 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA, the team may be better off overall with Fowler in the fold and Bailey gone.
The Indians are expected to be aggressive sellers this offseason as they begin rebuilding, and they have no more valuable trade chip than Cabrera.
With an incredibly weak free-agent class at shortstop and a number of teams in need of an upgrade at the position, the Indians could easily turn teams against each other in a bidding war for Cabrera's services at the Winter Meetings.
They're seeking young pitching. They should be able to get at least two top-tier prospects in return for the 27-year-old Cabrera, who is signed through 2014.
His value may never be higher than it is right now, so they'd be wise to pull the trigger if they find a deal to their liking.
The Rockies biggest need, without question, is starting pitching help after their starting pitchers sported a hefty 5.81 ERA last season.
Getting full seasons from Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, who combined to make just 28 starts last season, will no doubt help. But adding an arm or two wouldn't hurt, either.
Correia, who went 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA for the Pirates last season, is on the team's radar according to the Denver Post, and the sinkerballer could be a good fit in Colorado.
The Tigers already look like a better team than the one that won the AL pennant last season, as they've added Torii Hunter and will benefit greatly from the return of Victor Martinez.
On the flip side, they've parted ways with outfielder Delmon Young, backup catcher Gerald Laird and closer Jose Valverde, and are still in the running to bring back starter Anibal Sanchez.
The 28-year-old had a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts after joining the Tigers at the deadline and a 1.77 ERA over three postseason starts. His asking price is high as a result, but having him in the rotation behind Justin Verlander and Doug Fister and ahead of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello gives the team a formidable staff.
The 36-year-old Berkman spent the first 10-plus seasons of his career in Houston, where he was a five-time All-Star and perennially among the NL's top run producers.
Traded to the Yankees in 2010 and coming off two seasons with the Cardinals, Berkman is now looking for his next job. For an Astros team making the move to the American League, he is an intriguing DH option.
According to Fox 26 in Houston, Berkman has expressed interest in rejoining the Astros. The health of his ailing knee remains a question, but if he's healthy, he'd be a solid addition to a young Astros team that would benefit from his veteran presence.
The popular rumor surrounding the Royals has been their apparent willingness to move top prospect Wil Myers for a frontline starter, with Jon Lester and James Shields two names that have been brought up (h/t Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star).
While adding one of those arms would immediately improve the team's biggest weakness, in the long run it's simply not worth mortgaging Myers' potential when the addition of Shields or Lester wouldn't push them to the level of title contender.
Instead, the team should go after another mid-level veteran, as they've already acquired Ervin Santana and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie. According to Jon Morosi, the team has some interest in Brett Myers, as he wishes to start games again after serving as a reliever last season. He will likely fit the budget, and has plenty of upside.
The Angels parted ways with Dan Haren and Ervin Santana to start the offseason, then recently acquired Tommy Hanson from the Braves.
Still in need of one more starter, the team could opt to bring back Greinke as they look to make a serious run at a World Series title.
At this point, the Dodgers are viewed as the front-runners to sign him according to Jon Heyman, but the Angels and Rangers remain very much in the running.
At this point it doesn't look like anyone is out of the question as a target for the Dodgers, but their biggest need is a proven frontline starter to slot behind Clayton Kershaw in the rotation.
Despite the pursuits of the Angels and Rangers, the Dodgers are still viewed as the front-runners to land Greinke at this point according to Jon Heyman.
The team could stand to upgrade at third base and the bench is weak, but there is no doubt that signing Greinke is priority No. 1 for the Dodgers entering the Winter Meetings.
The Marlins effectively gutted their roster and alienated their fan base in shipping five of their best players to the Blue Jays for a package of young players and prospects.
At this point, they're headed for a lengthy rebuild, so dealing Nolasco—who will earn $11.5 million this season before hitting free agency at the end of the year—makes sense.
How much, if any, salary they take on would play a role in determining what sort of return they get.
In the end, it could be a matter of waiting until the free agent chips fall to find a taker, but the Winter Meetings are a perfect place to lay the groundwork for a potential deal if nothing else.
The Brewers dealt Zack Greinke at the deadline last summer, only to make a late season run at the playoffs thanks to an impressive lineup and solid contributions from a number of young starters.
Now, rather than rebuild as some believed they would, the team will likely look to add a starter or two and to shore up their bullpen for a run at the NL Central title.
I've said a number of times that I think the Brewers and Rays are a good fit as trade partners, and Shields would give the team another proven arm behind Yovani Gallardo. In return, the Brewers have a number of MLB-ready position prospects that should interest the Rays such as catcher Martin Maldonado, first baseman Hunter Morris and second baseman Scooter Gennett.
While their offense exceeded expectations this past season, the Twins' starting rotation kept them in the cellar in the AL Central as they lost 96 games.
Scott Diamond (12-9, 3.54 ERA) was impressive, but beyond him the team has little in the way of a starter they can count on moving forward.
They've reportedly touched base with around 20 pitchers so far this season (h/t ESPN Twin Cities), and one guy who could be a good fit is Edwin Jackson. He's not an ace of the same caliber as Zack Greinke, but he's a durable innings eater with upside.
The Twins need more of that type of pitcher in their rotation.
After locking third baseman David Wright up on a seven-year, $122 million extension, the Mets will now turn their attention to locking up Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey.
The team doesn't have much money to spend this offseason, so what they do with Dickey moving forward will dictate how the rest of their winter goes.
Dickey has shown every indication that he'd like to stay with the Mets (h/t Fox Sports). But if the two sides can't come to terms, the Mets would be better off moving him sooner rather than later so they can plan out the rest of their offseason accordingly.
Last week, I wrote a piece breaking down how re-signing Ichiro Suzuki would influence the rest of the Yankees offseason plans.
In that article, I asked the question, "Should the Yankees Re-Sign Ichiro Suzuki?" Of the 1,531 people who had voted on it at the time of this writing, a whopping 97.1 percent of people said yes.
He's a lower-cost option than some of the other potential outfielders the Yankees could pursue, and he proved he still has plenty left in the tank with a .322 average in 67 games in New York. After bringing back Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte the Yankees should follow suit and re-up with Ichiro at this year's meetings.
Seeing as the A's likely won't want to mortgage their young pitching to acquire Asdrubal Cabrera, bringing back Stephen Drew appears to be the team's best option at shortstop.
His $10 million option was declined to start the offseason. But as he's the only real starting shortstop option on the market, the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals and A's are all reportedly in on Drew according to a tweet from Jim Bowden.
He could wind up being a steal, as 2013 will be his first full season back from a gruesome ankle injury. He is still young enough to return to the form that once made him one of the top offensive options at the position.
After missing out on B.J. Upton, the Phillies may now turn their attention to the market's top offensive option: Josh Hamilton.
Philadelphia was among the biggest disappointments in all of baseball last season, but they still have a good enough core of veteran hitters and a fantastic trio of starters. They would be legitimate title contenders with the addition of someone like Hamilton.
The team's window is closing. If they hope to win another championship with this group of players, taking a shot on Hamilton may be the way to do it.
The Pirates had one of the better bullpens in the National League last season, with a 3.36 ERA as a group, and the 36-year-old Grilli was certainly part of that success.
In 64 appearances, he had a 2.91 ERA with an eye-popping 13.8 K/9 mark. Since missing all of the 2010 season with a knee injury, he's has a 2.76 ERA over 92 appearances the past two seasons.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of teams interested. According to Ken Rosenthal, Grilli is being looked at as a closer by some teams. Should the Pirates wind up trading Joel Hanrahan, they could look to re-sign Grilli to take his place.
Even if Hanrahan stays, the team would no doubt like to hold on to Jason Grilli.
UPDATE: Looks like the Nats have swooped in and signed Dan Haren to a one-year deal, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosehthal.
-- End of Update --
To me, the biggest risk/reward option on the market this offseason is Haren. He's coming off a down season, but not too long ago was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Back and hip issues should be enough to drive his price down to the Padres' range, but there may be no better place for the 32-year-old to boost his stock than Petco Park. Haren will likely look to sign a short deal and shoot for a big contract next offseason.
Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard are solid options in the Padres rotation, but beyond that they could use some help. Their young, improving offense is well ahead of where their pitching staff is at this point.
UPDATE: The Giants have reportedly agreed to terms with Pagan on a 4-year deal.
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After bringing reliever Jeremy Affeldt back on a three-year deal, the Giants will now look to bring back two more players who played a key role in their title run.
The team could wind up overpaying for postseason hero Scutaro, but they'd be crazy not to bring him back after the way he played. He is far and away the best option at second base either way.
Pagan, who set himself up for a nice payday with a bounce-back 2012 campaign, would be able to return to his spot atop the order.
With those two back in the fold, the team can turn their attention to adding an impact bat in left field.
Provided the Nationals re-sign Adam LaRoche as many expect they will, Morse will be expendable in Washington due to the team adding Denard Span to play center field.
Morse enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, and performed at a high level again last season when healthy. He began his big league career with the Mariners, and for a team starved for some offensive production he'd be a welcome addition.
The Nationals need a starting pitcher to fill the void left by Edwin Jackson's departure. Mariners prospect James Paxton could be enough to land Morse without setting the Mariners future pitching plans back too far.
Despite losing Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman, the Cardinals don't really have a significant hole as they look to return to the postseason.
Their most glaring need is a solid left-handed reliever, as Marc Rzepczynski is the only southpaw currently projected to be part of the bullpen.
Burnett declined his end of a $3.5 million mutual option to start the offseason, and the three-year, $18 million contract that Jeremy Affeldt signed is a good comparison for what Burnett can expect. The 30-year-old had a 2.38 ERA with 9.1 K/9 last season over 70 appearances.
With a surplus of quality starting pitching and needs up and down the lineup, this could be the season that the Rays finally pull the trigger on moving the oft-rumored Shields.
Signed for $9 million this coming season and with a $12 million option for the 2014 season, Shields is as cost-effective as any veteran starter of his caliber—which only adds to his value.
Catcher, first base, middle infield and DH are all clear-cut areas of need for the Rays. Moving Shields could allow them to shore up one or more of those positions, while still not hurting the team overall as Chris Archer appears more than capable of stepping into Shields' rotation spot.
Though he's the top hitter of this season's free agent class, the market of teams vying for his services has remained a mystery to this point (h/t CBSSports).
Hamilton's injury history will probably be enough to keep him from getting anything beyond a four or five-year deal, but he'll still represent a significant investment for whatever team that signs him as his annual salary is likely to exceed $20 million.
At the end of the day, he's been a big reason for the recent string of success in Texas. I think the two sides will reach a deal to keep Hamilton with the Rangers, at least for the next few seasons.
After their massive trade with the Marlins, not to mention the signing of Melky Cabrera, the Blue Jays are already in a terrific position to contend in 2013.
One area they could look to upgrade before the season starts is the back end of their rotation, where J.A. Happ is a fine No. 5 starter but could certainly be upgraded.
Dempster, a native of British Columbia, would give the Blue Jays another solid veteran to fill out their rotation. And considering he's 35 years of age, the team may be able to sign him to a two-year deal.
After a disappointing first season with the Nationals that saw him play just 43 games and hit .172, LaRoche returned with a vengeance in 2012 with a .271 BA, 33 HR and 100 RBI season while hitting in the middle of the Nationals order.
He declined his end of a $10 million mutual option in search of a multi-year deal. While other teams are interested, the Nationals and LaRoche are in the process of working on a new deal according to the Washington Post.
The Nationals acquisition of Denard Span has shifted Michael Morse in from left field to first base. Bringing back LaRoche would allow the team to shop Morse in what is a weak market for power hitters.