It's that time of year when people spend without restraint. Why should MLB teams behave any differently? They should all reward loved ones—e.g. the fans—with player acquisitions.
There aren't as many available players in free agency or on the trading block as there were earlier this offseason. Still, realistic scenarios could improve every club and convince fans to feel even better about their rosters heading into 2013.
We would certainly appreciate the following moves.
Arizona would still have a full outfield without Jason Kubel.
Managing general partner Ken Kendrick is easily satisfied. "We had some needs," he tells MLB.com's Steve Gilbert, "and...I think if it was a Christmas list, you could check off all the needs as met at this point."
Arizona Diamondbacks fans deserve better than the bare minimum.
Gilbert writes that Jason Kubel is expendable and on the trading block.
Texas Rangers prospect Mike Olt could provide comparable power at a lesser price. Beginning the 2013 season at Triple-A, the 24-year-old would supplant Chris Johnson at third base as the summer progressed.
The Diamondbacks' bullpen has enough depth to withstand the loss of Brad Ziegler.
With reputable left fielders vanishing from the free-agent market, the Atlanta Braves can acquire an affordable alternative from the Los Angeles Angels. These teams worked together just a few weeks ago, exchanging Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden.
Inserting Mark Trumbo would arguably give Atlanta the strongest lineup in the NL East, right up there with the Washington Nationals.
Chase Headley put up gaudy power numbers last season despite playing half his games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Imagine the damage he could do at Camden Yards!
The Baltimore Orioles have high expectations for 20-year-old Manny Machado. Shortstop is his primary defensive position, but J.J. Hardy blocks him from shifting there.
Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects that Headley will earn $8.3 million in arbitration this winter. Another healthy season would push him into eight figures for 2014.
Damn the cost—the O's need another middle-of-the-order bat. Plus, there are viable rotation candidates in the organization to replace Chris Tillman.
According to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, Mike Napoli and the Boston Red Sox agreed to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal earlier this month. The plan was for him to replace the departed James Loney at first base.
So what's the hold-up?
Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe explains that Boston is concerned about his hip. The team wants to modify Napoli's contract to lessen the guaranteed money.
Fans realize there aren't many powerful first basemen available in case this agreement falls apart. They hope it gets resolved soon.
Jackson reportedly seeks a four-year deal.
Sources tell ESPN.com's Jim Bowden that the Chicago Cubs are presenting four-year offers to Edwin Jackson as they bid against the Texas Rangers.
Chicago can't be sure about any of its long-term starting pitching options aside from Jeff Samardzija. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that even the Carlos Villanueva signing only runs through 2014. This free-agent acquisition would give the Cubs one less rotation spot to fill in 2013 and beyond.
Perhaps Jackson doesn't have Cy Young potential, but his consistency and durability are desirable.
Matt Garza is already getting excited about the potential addition:
Wonder what number Jackson is gonna wear??? #wondering— Matt garza (@Gdeuceswild) December 20, 2012
The Chicago White Sox would prefer to spend Gavin Floyd's $9.5 million salary on free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and a low-cost veteran to take Floyd's rotation spot. Reinforcing the bullpen is also on the agenda as Brett Myers seeks starting duty elsewhere, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
Bobby Parnell is only first-time arbitration eligible. He pitches to a high ground-ball rate and induces plenty of swings-and-misses.
Though Stephen McCray had a successful season at the High-A level, the White Sox could use a proven, late-inning reliever.
Frankly, the Cincinnati Reds don't have any glaring weaknesses to address.
They pleased their fans earlier this offseason by re-signing Jonathan Broxton and acquiring a legitimate lead-off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo. Even Jack Hannahan could be useful as a reserve corner infielder.
It's unclear where Scott Rolen fits in. Nonetheless, major league sources tell Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that he may want to stick around the team for one more year.
Whether Rolen accepts a minor league deal or finds himself in a player-coach hybrid role, he is welcomed to return.
The Cleveland Indians want Nick Swisher desperately. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian details how the team—among other gestures—treated him to lunch and dinner, and created a personalized video message on the Progressive Field scoreboard.
He's a native Ohioan and enthusiastic individual in any setting.
The Indians have a protected first-round pick, so signing Swisher would not require them to make a huge sacrifice. His consistent offensive production would undoubtedly improve the Tribe's weak lineup.
Vinnie Pestano has been a great setup man since 2011.
More specifically (because it didn't fit in the slide title), the Colorado Rockies should trade Michael Cuddyer and left-hander Christian Friedrich for Justin Masterson and Vinnie Pestano.
Cuddyer is a great influence in Colorado's clubhouse, but moving him would bolster the pitching staff. Tyler Colvin can produce just as well on the field while serving as a corner outfielder/first baseman.
Pestano has the potential to compete with Rafael Betancourt for the closer's job.
The Detroit Tigers prefer Bruce Rondon to seize the ninth-inning gig. The prohibitive cost of closers Joel Hanrahan and Rafael Soriano makes them poor fits, anyway.
Pedro Strop has potential comparable to Hanrahan and Soriano, but he wouldn't be expecting to get save opportunities like they would. Still, he would battle with Rondon in spring training and fill an important setup role, regardless.
Here's what Detroit's 2013 starting rotation might look like: RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Doug Fister, RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Anibal Sanchez, LHP Drew Smyly.
Rick Porcello is expendable.
This winter, Norris is eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Let's face it. The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers are at completely different levels of competitiveness.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that they have discussed Bud Norris. Houston shouldn't mind trading him to an in-state and AL West rival, especially if a high-ceiling guy like Roman Mendez is involved.
Already this offseason, the Astros have added John Ely, Phil Humber and Alex White, all of whom could fill a vacated rotation spot at a lesser price. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects Norris will earn $2.9 million through arbitration.
Hochevar, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, has been a bust.
It's still unclear why the Kansas City Royals tendered Luke Hochevar a contract. Including him in the starting rotation has given fans nothing but grief since his first semi-full MLB campaign in 2008.
He no longer has a role after K.C. completed its James Shields/Wil Myers blockbuster with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Paying the bulk of his 2013 salary in a trade would be worthwhile if lefty specialist Joe Thatcher came back in return. He'll be under team control through the 2014 season.
Wells has struggled offensively in two seasons with the Angels.
He's earning $21 million per season and performing below replacement level.
The Los Angeles Angels can hide Vernon Wells on the bench, but the 34-year-old will always be unpopular among their fans.
Covering the vast majority of his remaining contract is unavoidable. The Halos simply want to receive somebody who has a chance to contribute at the major league level.
Los Angeles has a surplus of starting pitching.
The Los Angeles Dodgers gave their fans a pair of early presents by signing Zack Greinke and Korean lefty Hyun-jin Ryu. As a result, L.A. has an unusual surplus of starting pitchers.
This trade would solidify the bridge to closer Brandon League while reducing the rotation clutter.
Joel Hanrahan has been among baseball's most unhittable relievers so far this decade. Opponents own a measly .211 batting average against him since 2010, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The 31-year-old boasts impressive career numbers against the Dodgers. They understandably want him in a blue uniform.
Nolasco requested a trade earlier this winter,
Jim Bowden hears that the Miami Marlins have interest in a deal involving Ricky Nolasco and Peter Bourjos of the Los Angeles Angels.
Duh! Nolasco's agent Matt Sosnick told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the right-hander would be "better served playing somewhere else." His contract is expiring, anyway, and the Fish could use a long-term solution in center field.
Kyle Jensen is a power-hitting corner outfielder who finished 2012 at Double-A. Miami's minor league system has solid depth at the position, so he won't be missed.
The Milwaukee Brewers are in luck.
Large market teams like the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants seem satisfied with their bullpen personnel. Even the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers haven't shown any interest in Rafael Soriano.
Agent Scott Boras won't be able to stir up much of a bidding war for the 33-year-old.
Soriano's lifetime 3.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio certainly appeals to the Brew Crew, whose bullpen was hampered by control problems for much of 2012. Acquiring Burke Badenhop helps, but Milwaukee needs a second consistent strike-thrower.
How can you take the Minnesota Twins seriously when they have Scott Diamond and Vance Worley leading the rotation?
General manager Terry Ryan told the Star Tribune in October that he would pursue "pretty darn good" pitchers. So far, though, he hasn't signed anybody to supplant Diamond as the team's ace.
With Edwin Jackson close to committing, Kyle Lohse represents the best free-agent option for the Twins, who have plenty of payroll left to spend.
Without R.A. Dickey, the New York Mets will lean on their offense to keep them relevant in 2013.
Scott Hairston finished with 20 home runs last season, the third-highest total on the team. He also showed the versatility to play every outfield position.
Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com has learned that Hairston prefers to stay with the Mets. And they should be glad to take him back (even on a multi-year deal).
Curtis Granderson, who turns 32 in March, has played center field in the Bronx for each of the past three seasons. Putting balls in play is becoming a struggle for him and, when healthy, Brett Gardner is a superior defensive player. The New York Yankees aren't likely to re-sign Granderson after his contract expires this fall.
They obviously need a catcher after former backstop Russell Martin signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brian McCann underwent shoulder surgery in October that might keep him sidelined into April. When back at 100 percent, however, he'll make an awesome offensive impact. McCann maintained an .850 OPS from 2006-2011, which translated to six consecutive NL All-Star selections.
Jonny Venters could be even more valuable in the long run. He's under team control for another three years and is already established as an elite setup man. He would move up in the bullpen hierarchy if and when Mariano Rivera retires.
Read more about this trade scenario.
The Oakland Athletics could shop at a discount this holiday season—as they customarily do—and sign Orlando Hudson. His offensive struggles with the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres give the A's all the leverage in negotiations.
With inexperienced projected starters at second base, shortstop and third base, Hudson could serve as a cheap insurance policy.
Last July, the Philadelphia Phillies blew up their outfield. They traded Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino to the West Coast for mid-level prospects.
Moreover, Ryan Howard posted a stinky .219/.295/.423 triple-slash line. Carlos Ruiz is suspended 25 games for amphetamine use and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is only "cautiously optimistic" about Chase Utley playing regularly in 2013, according to Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com.
Philadelphia needs another outfielder and another power hitter. Cody Ross is both.
The offense was inconsistent and the starting rotation not deep enough for the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates. Quietly, the relief corps kept them in contention through early September.
Pittsburgh has traded Brad Lincoln and Joel Hanrahan is expected to leave town, as well. The bullpen's depth will be compromised if the team doesn't make another acquisition.
J.P. Howell is coming off an encouraging bounce-back year.
Rick Porcello admittedly hasn't performed well since his rookie season.
Joining the San Diego Padres should change that. Many of the ground balls that sneak between pudgy Detroit Tigers infielders will be converted into outs by San Diego's more athletic defenders.
Because Porcello is under team control through 2015, the Padres can assess him at the end of each year and choose to non-tender him if he continues to struggle.
The San Francisco Giants should be worried about karma catching up to them. In 2012, the World Series champs used their top five starting pitchers for 161 of 162 games. That's not normal.
Freddy Garcia split last season between the bullpen and rotation. He could transition to the latter in case the Giants ever lose a starter due to injury (or if Tim Lincecum can't get his mechanics straightened out).
Chad Gaudin signed a minor league deal to fill a similar role, but he hasn't made an MLB start since 2009.
Looking to make a big splash in free agency, the Seattle Mariners have been striking out. They missed out on Josh Hamilton and now Nick Swisher is being courted by other needy teams.
The M's got themselves a middle-of-the-order bat in Wednesday's Kendrys Morales/Jason Vargas swap. The next step is to sign Michael Bourn to bat lead-off and patrol center field.
Excluding all middle infielders, the St. Louis Cardinals might have the strongest lineup in the National League. But, unfortunately, they can't be ignored.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal is always in suspect health, while second baseman Daniel Descalso has a suspect bat.
If acquired, Asdrubal Cabrera could start in front of whichever one is less reliable. A great offensive player in the prime of his career, Cabrera is under contract for another two seasons.
Lance Lynn pitched well for the Cardinals in 2012, but the club has sufficient starting pitching depth to contend without him.
Lance Berkman might not find the money he wants with the Tampa Bay Rays, but they sure could guarantee him everyday playing time. Signing with his hometown Houston Astros would be a very different story.
The Rays' lineup must do more in 2013 to reach the postseason in an improved American League.
When healthy, Berkman has always been terrific against pitchers of either handedness.
Unless Geovany Soto rediscovers his 2010 form, the Texas Rangers will need to acquire a better offensive catcher.
The free-agent market didn't offer many solutions at the position to begin with. With Christmas around the corner, A.J. Pierzynski is the best remaining option.
His offensive numbers should be expected to dip, but Pierzynski provides durability and puts a high percentage of balls in play.
During their busy offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays have neglected the bullpen. That's surprising considering that Darren Oliver is reportedly leaning toward retirement—via Jon Heyman—and closer Sergio Santos will be coming off major shoulder surgery.
Bearded Brian Wilson would not require a hefty guarantee, but rather a one-year deal laden with performance bonuses.
He successfully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery in 2003. Don't doubt that he'll do it again.
Re-signing Adam LaRoche allows the Washington Nationals to shop Mike Morse and head into 2013 as legitimate championship contenders. LaRoche produces runs in the middle of the lineup, plays great defense at first base and accepts a leadership role in the clubhouse.
Recently, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported that the team and free agent were at a "stalemate" with GM Mike Rizzo reluctant to guarantee a three-year deal.
Fans should urge him to get into the holiday spirit and make a generous offer.