Worst-Case Scenarios for All 30 MLB Teams This Winter
With only couple months to go until MLB spring training, what's the worst that could happen? This slideshow picks out scenarios that could negatively affect each team later this winter.
Free agency is a double-edged sword. Though talented, some available players are best left on the market if they carry risks of injury or misbehavior. At the same time, deciding not to commit means going forward without addressing weaknesses.
Much of the same could be said about trades and whether or not the potential of several prospects is worth the present value of an established veteran.
As you'll soon see, every case is unique.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton Stays Put
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The Arizona Diamondbacks got their shortstop of the future in a three-team trade. Didi Gregorius flaunted his defensive skills for 46 innings as a September call-up last season, validating the high praise he earned throughout his minor league career.
But the D-Backs shouldn't rush Gregorius into an everyday role until he develops into a better offensive player.
GM Kevin Towers has potential trade partners in the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers who, in return for Justin Upton, could provide Asdrubal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus, respectively. Acquiring either would ensure that Arizona gets elite shortstop performance for the next two years.
It's an opportunity that Towers would be foolish to pass up.
Atlanta Braves: Disinterest from Free-Agent Outfielders
Reed Johnson wasn't signed as an everyday option.
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As MLBDepthCharts sees it, the Atlanta Braves would be starting Juan Francisco at third base and Martin Prado in left field if games were already being played.
The team hopes to move Prado back to the hot corner and sign a free agent to roam alongside B.J. Upton.
If those in the higher tiers aren't willing to fit within Atlanta's mid-market payroll, the Braves might have to settle for a platoon situation. That's not ideal.
Baltimore Orioles: Getting Second Baseman Kelly Johnson
He would push Alexi Casilla and Brian Roberts down the depth chart.
Speculation of this signing comes from Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com, who's drooling over his power-speed combination.
But after letting Mark Reynolds leave, the last thing the Baltimore Orioles need is another strikeout-prone batter.
Johnson has whiffed an average of 157 times per season since 2010. Meanwhile, internal options Alexi Casilla and Brian Roberts make contact far more regularly and possess comparable defensive skills.
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli Deal Falls Apart
The Red Sox haven't announced Napoli's $39 million deal yet.
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Mike Napoli and Boston Red Sox executives have been tight-lipped as to what's stopping their three-year agreement from becoming official.
"I don't want to comment specifically," GM Ben Cherington told MLB.com's Evan Drellich.
The money and contract length were agreed upon during the winter meetings in Nashville. Drellich suspects that a health concern is responsible for the hold-up:
Napoli's physical could have revealed a condition that the team feels is risky enough to require contract language addressing it. In that scenario, the specifics of the language -- or from Napoli's perspective, the belief that there need be any language at all -- could be an obstacle.
It's still possible for the proposition to fall apart if neither side budges. In that case, Boston would begin searching for another first baseman during an offseason where neither free agency nor the trade market offer many solutions.
Chicago Cubs: Scott Baker Struggles to Complete Tommy John Rehab
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Brace yourselves for deja vu, Chicago Cubs fans. The team has once again constructed a starting rotation with the intent to dissolve it at midseason for prospects.
But the front office took a strange risk by signing Scott Baker, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April. He's guaranteed $5.5 million with an extra $1.5 million available in performance-based bonuses.
Rehab from the procedure typically takes 12 months or more. With the slightest setback, he may not be able to re-establish himself as a quality starter prior to July's non-waiver trade deadline.
Chicago White Sox: Jeff Keppinger Rushes Back from Broken Leg
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Despite breaking his leg in November, Jeff Keppinger received $12 million from the Chicago White Sox. He's expected to start for them at third base.
Keppinger is motivated to be a full participant in spring training, so the team has to be concerned that he might re-injure it in haste.
Cincinnati Reds: Inactivity
With Jack Hannahan signed, the Reds might be done out of money.
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There's little things the Cincinnati Reds still want to do.
Major league sources tell Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that they would be "more than happy" to re-sign Scott Rolen as a reserve infielder/clubhouse mentor. With Aroldis Chapman joining the rotation, adding a left-handed reliever also makes sense.
Surely, the front office would feel disappointed if neither move got done.
Cleveland Indians: Nick Swisher Gets a Better Offer
Cleveland needs a new right fielder after trading Shin-Soo Choo.
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The Cleveland Indians failed to attract Shane Victorino at the winter meetings. They extended a four-year, $44 million offer, but he went to the Boston Red Sox for a higher average-annual value.
Now, ESPN's Jim Bowden reports that Nick Swisher is the latest outfielder in their cross-hairs. He is perhaps the only remaining free agent at the position capable of matching Shin-Soo Choo's lost production.
The Indians had one of the league's weakest lineups in 2012 and won't be much better unless they land the switch-hitting Swisher (or trade for somebody with comparable skills).
Colorado Rockies: Bloated Contract for Reputable Pitcher
The Rockies could feel compelled to overpay for a starter.
The Colorado Rockies could put themselves is an even uglier state by overpaying for the likes of Edwin Jackson or Kyle Lohse. Both have been linked to their NL West rivals, as Ken Rosenthal claims the San Diego Padres are pursuing Jackson and ESPN's Mark Saxon tweeted that the Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in Lohse.
In this case, the franchise must resist its competitive urges and be more fiscally responsible. Trading center fielder Dexter Fowler for pitching is a much safer strategy.
Detroit Tigers: Unable to Acquire Veteran Reliever
Prospect Bruce Rondon needs competition for closer's role.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has insisted via Twitter that prospect Bruce Rondon will get an opportunity to close in 2013 (via Josh Slagter of MLive.com). He's been practically unhittable in the minor leagues since moving to the bullpen in 2010.
However, the 22-year-old fireballer still struggles to locate his triple-digit heat and shouldn't be trusted in high-leverage situations until that changes.
Come April, we won't be talking about the Tigers as American League favorites unless they deepen their relief corps.
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman Signs Elsewhere
The Astros want Berkman back...at a hometown discount.
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ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports that the Houston Astros still want Lance Berkman as their everyday designated hitter. Amid rebuilding, Houston wants to bring back a familiar face who can stimulate interest even as the losses pile up.
Crasnick goes on to tweet that the team doesn't have interest in other veteran injury risks like Johnny Damon and Travis Hafner.
It's Berkman or bust.
Kansas City Royals: No Takers for Jeff Francoeur
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As a result of their pitching transactions, the Kansas City Royals are significantly over budget, tweets Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star.
Shopping outfielder Jeff Francoeur seems like an appropriate move. They could find another team interested in his right-handed bat and $7.5 million salary, and use a fraction of that to sign an elderly free agent. They'll lose some defensive skill in the process, but possibly improve the lineup without Francoeur's free-swinging tendencies.
However, K.C. wants to keep Frenchy, according to Dutton. The Royals will be hurting themselves if that mindset doesn't change.
Los Angeles Angels: Another Josh Hamilton Relapse
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The signing of Josh Hamilton—which became official on Saturday—is risky enough as a baseball decision. With his durability concerns and overaggressive approach at the plate, the Los Angeles Angels aren't assured a great return on their $125 million investment.
His ongoing battle with alcohol addiction throws another wrinkle into the equation. In two of the past four offseasons, Hamilton slipped up in his sobriety mission and brought great embarrassment to himself and the Texas Rangers.
The last thing L.A. needs is a reason to distrust him.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clubhouse Doesn't Gel with New Personalities
Zack Greinke is known as an introverted guy.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a lot of strangers together on the same roster following their free-agent spending and inevitable trades of excess starting pitching.
This team will crash and burn if third-year manager Don Mattingly can't make everybody mesh.
Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton Traded
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MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reminds us that the Miami Marlins didn't shop Giancarlo Stanton at the winter meetings.
He wonders, however, if the Texas Rangers might make the Fish an unbelievable offer for the 23-year-old. To keep pace in the AL West arms race, they need a power-hitting outfielder to replace Josh Hamilton. Texas has prospects like Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar that Miami could rebuild around.
Of course, this proposition doesn't appeal to Marlins fans. The team would be doomed to lose 100-plus games without Stanton.
Milwaukee Brewers: No Veteran Pitching Addition
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The Milwaukee Brewers are delusional to believe that their current pitching staff puts them in a position to contend. It's a young collection of arms and the only couple guys past their 30th birthdays—Jim Henderson and Chris Narveson—aren't very accomplished at the major league level.
Adding somebody who's experienced, durable and consistent to either the starting rotation or bullpen would put the Brew Crew in a better situation.
Re-signing Shaun Marcum, for example, is an option. The free agent told ESPN's Jim Bowden that he hasn't ruled out his former team.
Minnesota Twins: Filling out Rotation with Brandon Webb
Webb's career was abruptly derailed by injury.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Committed to revamping their starting rotation, the Minnesota Twins added Kevin Correia and Vance Worley earlier this offseason. Neither are considered potential aces, but at least they've been relevant this decade.
The same cannot be said of Brandon Webb.
The former NL Cy Young Award winner has struggled with shoulder injuries and made zero major league appearances since Opening Day 2009. He last pitched professionally in the Texas Rangers organization in 2011. Unfortunately, he only managed a 9.75 ERA due to diminished velocity.
Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1050 reports that the Twins will attend his throwing session in January. Adding him with expectations that he'd actually contribute is a pipe dream.
New York Mets: Toronto Blue Jays Back off R.A. Dickey
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Contract extension talks between R.A. Dickey and the New York Mets didn't get far, leading the team to put him on the trading block. It's hard to part with one of the league's finest arms, but the Toronto Blue Jays reportedly have a great package on the table.
Catcher Travis D'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard each could become impact players in the coming years. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports believes Toronto is overpaying by including both for an impending free agent.
This could be the highlight of New York's offseason, so the Mets hope everything checks out fine with Dickey's medical history.
New York Yankees: Complications from Alex Rodriguez's Hip Surgery
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Third baseman Alex Rodriguez is expected to need a minimum of four months to recover from a left hip procedure that he'll undergo in mid-January.
Even that optimistic projection has him missing a significant chunk of the 2013 season, so the New York Yankees signed Kevin Youkilis in response. Though he's accomplished, Youk doesn't have a durable reputation, either. Like Rodriguez, he spent time on the disabled list each year from 2009 to 2012.
So let's assume the worst—A-Rod's surgery is less than successful, sidelining him for at least half the year. That would leave the Yanks reliant on their fragile free-agent acquisition who batted only .235/.336/.409 last summer.
Oakland Athletics: Can't Acquire an Affordable Shortstop
Stephen Drew has other suitors.
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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta are the two most sensible options to fill the shortstop vacancy on the Oakland Athletics.
It's unclear if the A's could land either of them.
Drew has leverage as the best middle infielder remaining in the free-agent class. The Detroit Tigers maintain some interest and they would most certainly torch Oakland in any bidding war.
Interestingly, Peralta is a Tiger. Detroit prefers an alternative with better defensive range, though, and he has been on the trading block for a while. A swap involving these teams doesn't seem likely, so long as GM Billy Beane holds onto his right-handed-hitting outfielders.
This needs to get resolved.
Philadelphia Phillies: Mike Adams Isn't His Old Self
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However you look at the stats, Mike Adams was a dominant setup man with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. He attacks the strike zone, induces weak contact and simply prevents the opposition from reaching base.
But he faced adversity late last season. After being pelted hard in September, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Removing one of his ribs presumably resolved the issue.
Still, New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital identifies motor problems as a potential complication.
The Philadelphia Phillies had great difficulty getting through the eighth inning in 2012. Replacing Adams would be impossible with their internal options.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Stuck with Joel Hanrahan
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While the Pittsburgh Pirates appreciate Joel Hanrahan's success in two-plus years as team closer, they would rather spend $6.9 million addressing other matters. That's the salary Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn through arbitration.
Ken Rosenthal notes that the Los Angeles Dodgers like Hanrahan, as they have since the offseason began. Pittsburgh would gladly accept either of their surplus starters—Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang—in exchange.
Until the Pirates move Hanrahan, they don't have the financial flexibility to acquire MLB-ready talent.
San Diego Padres: Miss out on an Established Starting Pitcher
San Diego needs someone of Edwin Jackson's durable reputation.
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Disaster struck the San Diego Padres pitching staff in 2012. Due to a rash of major arm injuries, only two players logged at least 100 innings. The Padres were forced to dig too deep into the farm system and their sub-.500 record reflected that.
Rival executives tell Ken Rosenthal that San Diego is "strongly pursuing" right-hander Edwin Jackson. That would be a great fit considering the 29-year-old has never missed a scheduled start in his MLB career.
The Padres would be screwed if they failed to add Jackson, Brett Myers or another consistent free agent to their rotation.
San Francisco Giants: Chad Gaudin Slotted as Rotation Fill-in
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The San Francisco Giants have signed Chad Gaudin to a minor league contract. In case of injury to any of their five fabulous starting pitchers, the right-hander would likely join the rotation.
To say the Giants are ill-prepared is understating it.
Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito will become free agents following the 2013 season. San Francisco should buy low on available players with the potential to replace them.
Seattle Mariners: No Michael Bourn
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MLB.com's Greg Johns writes that the Seattle Mariners were ready to make a big splash by signing Josh Hamilton. That didn't happen.
The M's obviously want an outfielder. They have been linked to other reputable free agents like Nick Swisher as well as trade candidates like Brennan Boesch.
However, the last player available from the top tier—who has been valued at nearly 4.8 WAR annually since 2009—is Michael Bourn.
They'll be obliterated in the AL West without him.
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright Declines Extension
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Simply put, Adam Wainwright was inconsistent in 2012. He tossed three complete games, but just as many clunkers where he allowed seven runs or more. Even his playoff performances were mixed.
This should have been expected in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Still, there's every reason to expect that he'll re-emerge as an NL Cy Young candidate this coming season.
That's why the St. Louis Cardinals want to extend Wainwright's expiring contract immediately. They could get him at a discount before the results confirm their optimism.
If he doesn't comply this winter, St. Louis may not have the resources to lock him up later.
Tampa Bay Rays: Delmon Young Reunion
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As desperate as the Tampa Bay Rays are to add another bat, ALCS MVP Delmon Young wouldn't do them any good.
The former No. 1 draft pick is too undisciplined to maximize his value at the plate. Plus, his ever-expanding waistline makes him a defensive liability.
Even on a one-year, incentive-laden deal, he's a poor fit.
Texas Rangers: A.J. Pierzynski Chooses Another Destination
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Geovany Soto is currently projected to start behind the plate regularly for the Texas Rangers. That's a scary scenario considering how his offensive skills have deteriorated during the past few seasons.
As the free-agent market dries up, A.J. Pierzynski looks like the only superior option available.
Texas would need to trade prospects to find a reputable backstop if the soon-to-be 36-year-old settles somewhere else.
Toronto Blue Jays: Melky Cabrera Back in 2010 Form
Nobody's quite sure how Cabrera will perform without PEDs.
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The Toronto Blue Jays surprised many by signing Melky Cabrera to a multi-year deal. Though he excelled on the field in 2012, we've learned that his contributions were aided by performance-enhancing drugs.
In committing to him for $8 million annually, the Blue Jays were confident that he could be in Kansas City Royals form (.305/.339/.470 with 18 HR).
If Cabrera struggles, however, Toronto would lose plenty of production, dropping off from a potential All-Star to one-dimensional Rajai Davis.
Washington Nationals: Whiffing on Adam LaRoche
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There's no doubt that the Washington Nationals look dangerous with their current personnel.
The only question remaining is whether or not the front office is willing to make Adam LaRoche a three-year offer. Length is reportedly the only disagreement that has delayed his re-signing.
Last season, he provided middle-of-the-order production—33 home runs and 100 RBI—and smooth defense at first base. With him in the fold, the Nationals could trade slugger Mike Morse for prospects and/or extra bullpen help.