Updating the Biggest Need MLB Teams Failed to Address This Offseason

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2013

Updating the Biggest Need MLB Teams Failed to Address This Offseason

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    With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report for some MLB teams on Sunday, spring training officially gets underway.

    That certainly doesn't mean that every team has done everything they can to address all of their needs, however.

    There is still time to do some tweaking before Opening Day, and general managers across MLB will continue tinkering with their rosters in order to achieve their goals.

    Here is a breakdown of each MLB team's biggest need, if they have one, as they embark on spring training this week.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Right-Handed Hitting Depth

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    When the Arizona Diamondbacks assemble for spring training, there will be a lot of introductions.

    Easily one of the most active teams this offseason in terms of transactions, the Diamondbacks will be loaded with new faces.

    General manager Kevin Towers attempted to address many needs with the acquisitions of Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, Cody Ross, Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, Brandon McCarthy, Heath Bell, Randall Delgado, Matt Reynolds, Tony Sipp and Martin Prado.

    One glaring need, however, is the need for a right-handed power hitter off the bench.

    Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt and Ross will help to provide pop from the right side, but the D-Backs have little else.

    Late-inning pinch-hitting duties will likely fall on the shoulders of Chavez and Hinske. If opposing teams counter with a southpaw, manager Kirk Gibson is left with few options.

Atlanta Braves: Veteran Arm for Insurance in Rotation

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    The Atlanta Braves dealt away both Tommy Hanson and Randall Delgado this offseason. Even with those transactions, the Braves rotation figures to be strong.

    Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm and Mike Minor make up the top four. Julio Teheran will face minimal competition as he looks to lock down the fifth spot.

    The Braves are still loaded with pitching prospects, despite trading off Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino in the past year. Sean Gilmartin and J.R. Graham will both move quickly through the Braves farm system, but not quickly enough to have an impact on the major league club this season.

    Brandon Beachy, the National League's ERA leader last June, likely won't return until sometime around late June after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

    Adding a veteran arm to help provide insurance doesn't sound like a bad idea at all at this point. There's certainly no guarantee that Teheran is ready to take the reins as a full-time starter in the majors.

    GM Frank Wren will be looking to continue tweaking his roster before Opening Day; keeping an eye out for a veteran starter should be high on his priority list.

Baltimore Orioles: Designated Hitter

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    The Baltimore Orioles go into spring training and the 2013 regular season ready to do battle with Wilson Betemit as their designated hitter.


    After making the postseason for the first time in 15 years, the Orioles have made no significant upgrades thus far, leaving many fans scratching their heads.

    Betemit is a career .268 hitter playing for his seventh team, certainly not a player considered a huge threat offensively.

    Nolan Reimold could see time at DH as well as he works back from neck surgery. Without question, however, designated hitter is still a black hole for the Orioles.

Boston Red Sox: Quality Fourth Outfielder

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    The Boston Red Sox got some bad news when outfielder Ryan Kalish underwent surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder in late January.

    Kalish was the leading candidate to platoon with Jonny Gomes in left field.

    With Kalish likely out for a significant portion of the 2013 season, the leading candidates to replace him are Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney.

    Nava hit .243 in 88 games last season, while Sweeney hit .260 with no home runs in 63 games. Sweeney's season ended last year after he broke the pinkie finger on his left hand terrorizing a dugout door in late July.

    General manager Ben Cherington still has a few weeks to tweak his roster, but the thought of Nava or Sweeney serving as the fourth outfielder likely doesn't bring great optimism for Sox fans.

Chicago Cubs: A Top-of-the-Rotation Starter

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    The Chicago Cubs worked to fill spots in their starting rotation this offseason. They acquired Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva. They'll join Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.

    None of them, however, qualifies as an ace.

    Samardzija tossed 174.2 innings last year in working as a full-time starter for the first time in his career. Garza is returning from a stress reaction in his elbow that saw him miss the final months of the season.

    It's a collection of pitchers that screams average at best.

Chicago White Sox: Left-Handed Hitting Power Threat

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    The 2013 White Sox offense will feature Adam Dunn as a solid power-hitting slugger from the left side. Beyond Dunn, the cupboard is bare.

    General manager Rick Hahn made few moves this offseason in upgrading his roster, adding Jeff Keppinger to replace Kevin Youkilis at third and acquiring Matt Lindstrom to bolster the bullpen.

    The loss of A.J. Pierzynski represents a big drop in power from the left side of the plate. Dunn reached the 40-home run mark for the sixth time in his career, but that also came with a .204 average and a major league-leading 222 strikeouts.

    The Sox have power on the right side with Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios. However, if Dunn experiences any kind of regression in 2013—entirely possible given his 2011 season—the Sox will suffer a power outage from the left side of the plate.

Cincinnati Reds: None

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    Coming off a 97-win season, the Cincinnati Reds didn't have much to do in terms of making upgrades this offseason.

    In acquiring Shin-Soo Choo, they took care of the need for a quality leadoff bat.

    In signing Jonathan Broxton, they upgraded the bullpen and allowed for the transition of Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation.

    In signing Manny Parra, they added even more depth to a bullpen that was tops in the National League last year.

    This is a team that's stacked and well-positioned to successfully defend their NL Central division title.

Cleveland Indians: A Rotation Stopper

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    The Cleveland Indians will enter spring rotation with four locks in their starting rotation—Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers and Zach McAllister.

    Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber and David Huff will likely duke it out for the fifth and final spot.

    The problem is that none of these pitchers at this point would be considered stoppers.

    Masterson and Jimenez will be expected to bounce back from massively disappointing 2012 campaigns. Myers is stepping back into a starter's role with reduced velocity and facing American League hitters for the bulk of the season for the first time in his career.

    Bauer is expected to be an ace at some point in his career—but likely not this coming season.

    Without Masterson and Jimenez returning to form, this is an Indians rotation that will absolutely struggle to keep up in the American League Central division.

Colorado Rockies: Starting Rotation

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    The Colorado Rockies had by far the worst ERA in baseball from starters last season.

    They enter the 2013 season having done nothing to address that issue.

    The Rockies are counting on the trio of Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa to be completely healthy. Combined, the three made just 28 starts last season.

    No question the talent is there in all three; counting on all of them to remain completely healthy for an entire season is another matter entirely.

    Rockies management swung and missed with Project 5,183 last year. They'll go back to a conventional five-man rotation this year. Doing it with the same cast of characters that massively failed last season is not an encouraging sign.

Detroit Tigers: A Top-Notch Closer

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    After closer Jose Valverde completely spit the bit in the postseason last year, the Detroit Tigers understandably didn't welcome him back with open arms.

    Now, the Tigers are fully prepared to enter the 2013 season with a closer who has yet to appear in a major league game.

    Venezuelan prospect Bruce Rondon will be given first dibs at locking down the role during spring training.

    The ability is there; Rondon can throw as high as 102 mph and notched 29 saves across three levels in the minors last year.

    However, with a team clearly built to win now, the Tigers are taking a huge chance.

    The bullpen has quality veteran arms in Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke. Dotel has logged 109 saves during his career but has largely been used as a seventh- and eighth-inning man for the past three seasons.

    It's a huge leap of faith for the Tigers. Rondon has big-time strikeout capabilities with a 9.8 K/9 rate in the minors. But that also comes with a 5.1 BB/9 rate, meaning that command isn't his strong suit.

    General manager Dave Dombrowski will need to keep his cellphone on standby if Rondon fails to effectively master his control at the major league level.

Houston Astros: Increased Run Production

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    The Houston Astros scored just 583 runs last season, by far the worst in the National League.

    They partially addressed that issue by signing free-agent slugger Carlos Pena. However, they also took away a major piece of their offense in trading away shortstop Jed Lowrie.

    With their move to the American League in 2013, the Astros enter their new league with a roster composed of unproven youngsters and one veteran, Pena, who hit just .197 last season.

    They could be hard-pressed at this point to match their run production from last season.

Kansas City Royals: Fifth Starter

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    The Kansas City Royals definitely bolstered their starting rotation for the 2013 season with the additions of James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana.

    However, the fifth spot in the rotation leaves a lot to be desired.

    Shields, Davis, Santana and Jeremy Guthrie are locks for the top spots. That leaves a group that includes Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and possibly Luis Mendoza competing for the No. 5 spot.

    Promising youngster Danny Duffy could return around midseason after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

    Until then, Royals fans will be watching from between their fingers whenever the No. 5 pitcher is set to go.

    Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/02/09/4057469/royals-top-position-battles-in.html#storylink=cpy

Los Angeles Angels: None

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    The Los Angeles Angels enter spring training with almost all of their roster spots locked down.

    General manager Jerry Dipoto added Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett to help support the bullpen trio of Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen. Nick Maronde and Garrett Richards are the leading candidates to round out the bullpen.

    The rotation is set as well, with Jerome Williams set as the insurance policy on the back end.

    Position players are set as well, with newcomer Josh Hamilton the major offensive piece added.

    About the only concerns the Angels will have during spring training is who will stand out as the utility infielders. Andrew Romine, Brendan Harris and Bill Hall will all compete for that role.

Los Angeles Dodgers: None, but Chemistry Will Be the Key

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    Given what the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent since last July, they have left no stone unturned in fulfilling virtually every need.

    The biggest issue at this point is whether left fielder Carl Crawford will be ready to go on Opening Day after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in August.

    Of course, chemistry will be a major issue as well.

    On paper, the Dodgers clearly have the talent to succeed at a high level.

    However, we said the same thing about the Miami Marlins last year...that didn't turn out as planned.

    This year's version of the Dodgers will be saddled with high expectations from the start of spring training. They'll need to come together quickly in order to meet those lofty expectations.

Miami Marlins: Protection for Giancarlo Stanton

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    We could certainly go on ad nauseum about the Miami Marlins and their fire sale that's been going on since July.

    However, left in the wake of all the changes is the fact that slugger Giancarlo Stanton needs help in the batting order.

    With first baseman Logan Morrison still recovering from offseason surgery, Stanton finds himself alone on an island in terms of offering a potent bat.

    As such, opposing pitchers will have no problem pitching around Stanton all season long.

    The Marlins may be looking toward the future in building a team capable of producing and winning. But for the present, Stanton is all alone with virtually no protection.

Milwaukee Brewers: A Quality Veteran Starter

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    The Milwaukee Brewers rotation will feature a group of youngsters in Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta. They'll support Yovani Gallardo, a legitimate ace at the top of the rotation.

    However, expecting the stars to completely align and getting solid production from each of the above this year is a stretch.

    The bullpen was bolstered with the additions of Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny and Burke Badenhop. It's a group that could be challenged if the Brewers' young starters fail to deliver.

Minnesota Twins: Quality Starting Pitching

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    The Minnesota Twins' biggest need this offseason was without question starting pitching. To that end, the Twins picked up Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden.

    Harden missed the entire 2012 season following rotator cuff surgery and has been dogged with arm issues throughout his career.

    Pelfrey went under the knife for Tommy John surgery himself in early May. Pelfrey recently told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com that he expects to enter spring training without any limitations.

    The four pitchers join returning starter Scott Diamond, and Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak will vie for attention as well.

    Worley will attempt to bounce back after a disappointing sophomore campaign (6-9 record, 4.20 ERA in 23 starts).

    Expecting Pelfrey to produce right out of the gates following major surgery is a plus. In addition, expecting any solid production from Harden given his injury history is a major stretch.

    Moves were certainly made to address the starting rotation. The question is whether those moves actually constitute an upgrade.

New York Mets: Outfield

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    When you're faced with an offense in which none of the starting outfielders are run producers, you're in trouble.

    That's currently what the Mets face with an outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. It's possible that Michael Bourn could still sign before spring training, but that won't help the run production much.

    Manager Terry Collins is going to be inventing ways to manufacture runs with this group.

    General manager Sandy Alderson still has time to make additions. However, short of landing Bourn or pulling off a major trade, this is a need that will be left unaddressed.

New York Yankees: Right-Handed Designated Hitter

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    The New York Yankees signed Travis Hafner to a one-year, $2 million contract last week. With the signing, they addressed at least half of a need.

    When fully healthy, Hafner will add a great bat against right-handed pitching. However, against southpaws, Hafner struggles; he hit just .197 against lefties last season.

    The Yankees don't have many viable options from the right side. Alex Rodriguez could see time at DH when he returns from hip surgery, but there's no guarantee when that return will come.

    Manager Joe Girardi will be challenged to come up with options at DH against left-handed pitching.

Oakland Athletics: None

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    The Oakland Athletics will start the 2013 season in defense of their AL West division championship. They'll defend that title with a roster loaded with options.

    The A's acquired both Hiroyuki Nakajima and Jed Lowrie to replace Stephen Drew at shortstop. Lowrie will also be in the mix at second base along with Adam Rosales and Jemile Weeks. Scott Sizemore returns as well after missing the entire 2012 season with a knee injury. However, he could be more in the mix at third base along with Josh Donaldson.

    The addition of Chris Young adds a solid right-handed power bat in the outfield. The A's also have a solid core of starters returning as well.

    If anything, manager Bob Melvin will be working with an overload of players, working to find the right mix each and every day.

Philadelphia Phillies: Power-Hitting Outfielder

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    The Philadelphia Phillies solved their issue in center field with the acquisition of Ben Revere. Revere is under team control for the next five seasons as well, making the transaction a nice cost-control move by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

    Amaro also signed free-agent outfielder Delmon Young, who will presumably take over in right field. Perhaps a fresh start will be the elixir for Young, who bashed 21 home runs with an .826 OPS for the Minnesota Twins in 2010.

    That leaves Domonic Brown, Laynce Nix, Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. as options in left field. The Phillies are running out of patience with Brown, who they've invested considerable time and money in since drafting him in 2006.

    Ruf showed promise last year, hitting .333 in 12 games after his September call-up.

    However, it's still a primary area of concern for the Phillies at this point.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Improved Offense

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates attempted to fill a major need for their offense by signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin.

    However, Martin alone simply wasn't enough.

    The Pirates got off to hot starts in both of the previous two seasons only to falter badly in the second half. Andrew McCutchen is absolutely a rising star offensively, but he needed a lot more than just Martin to help him out.

    Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker will be counted on to help provide more punch, as will Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones.

    It just feels like only adding Martin still left the Pirates offense wanting for more.

San Diego Padres: Starting Pitching

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    The San Diego Padres added virtually no one of note this offseason. For the starting rotation, that may not bode well for the upcoming season.

    Padres starters posted the fourth-worst ERA (4.44) in the National League last year. With the fences coming in at Petco Park, no one should expect that ERA to improve with the current cast of characters.

    The Padres' non-action in addressing an obvious need will haunt them next season.

San Francisco Giants: None

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    The San Francisco Giants addressed their needs simply by re-signing their own free agents and bringing back a former hero.

    Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and Jeremy Affeldt were all re-signed, and Andres Torres was brought back to help out in left field along with Gregor Blanco.

    Four areas of need, and four transactions that dealt with those needs. The Giants made things look simple this offseason.

Seattle Mariners: Starting Rotation

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    With the departure of Jason Vargas, the Seattle Mariners now sport a starting rotation that features Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi.

    Youngsters Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton will help at some point in the future, but the 2013 season is not a given for any of them.

    Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Garland were added as well. However, Bonderman hasn't pitched in the majors since 2010, and Garland since 2011.

    This is simply a rotation that screams regression. While there's promise for the future, it could be a struggle this season, especially with fences coming in at Safeco Field.

St. Louis Cardinals: None

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    After making the postseason once again in their first year without Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals went into the offseason with a very small wish list.

    They acquired Randy Choate as a left-handed complement to Marc Rzepczynski in the bullpen. Other than that, general manager John Mozeliak was quiet this offseason.

    The Cardinals will eventually need a long-term solution at shortstop, but for now they're content with Rafael Furcal in the final year of his contact along with Pete Kozma and possibly Ryan Jackson.

    For now, they're content to roll with the roster as currently constituted.

Tampa Bay Rays: Offense Behind the Plate

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    The Tampa Bay Rays looked to add some offense this offseason, but behind the plate that offense will remain the same.

    Jose Molina finally became a starter last year after years as a backup. However, the results were less than spectacular—Molina hit just .223/.286/.355 with eight home runs and 32 RBI.

    Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez, Robinson Chirinos and Stephen Vogt represent the other options, and none of them have distinguished themselves with the bat.

    The Rays looked for offensive weapons and may have added a big one with the acquisition of top hitting prospect Wil Myers. But behind the plate remains a black hole left unaddressed.

Texas Rangers: Quality Veteran Starter

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    The Texas Rangers took a stab at adding starter Zack Greinke to front their starting rotation for years to come.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers simply had deeper pockets.

    Now, the Rangers prepare to do battle in 2013 with Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando as locks in the rotation. Martin Perez will battle for the fifth spot as well.

    Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz likely won't be back until early June, so the Rangers will roll the dice with what they have.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bullpen

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    Considering all of the activity that's occurred in Toronto since the beginning of the offseason, it's hard to imagine that the Blue Jays missed anything along the way.

    One need not really addressed was the bullpen.

    Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos will likely compete for the closer's role, with Darren Oliver returning to provide late-inning support as well.

    Esmil Rogers and Steve Delabar likely have spots locked down, leaving two spots to be filled. Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, J.A. Happ and Jeremy Jeffress will do battle to finalize the bullpen.

    One more quality veteran reliever would have been a nice add, especially with Santos returning from an injury-filled season and Janssen not a certainty either.

Washington Nationals: None

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    The Washington Nationals put an exclamation point on their 2013 offseason by signing closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year contract.

    Soriano was the icing on the cake for the Nationals, who also added center fielder Denard Span, starter Dan Haren and re-signed free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche.

    The Nationals appear to be not only ready to defend their National League East division title, but also to improve on their 98-win season as well.




    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.