If traded this offseason, Giancarlo Stanton could single-handedly affect baseball's balance of power.
Leading an MLB front office is about developing a specific, long-term plan, then ripping it up and redoing it every couple weeks. Due to injuries, acquisitions and breakout performers, teams constantly adjust their goals for the approaching offseason.
Based on who moved—and more importantly, who didn't move—at the 2013 non-waiver trade deadline, there have been changes to the list of potentially available players. The quality and quantity of impending free agents, for example, understandably influences priorities around the league.
The likelihood of clubs satisfying their greatest desires varies, but let's discuss them all, anyway.
*Stats provided by FanGraphs unless otherwise noted, accurate as of Aug. 8.
The Arizona Diamondbacks aren't particularly deficient at any position, but aside from Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt, they lack star-caliber players.
They have a handful of overpaid guys—like Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel and Cody Ross—clogging up the roster.
There's no single move that could elevate this team from adequacy to excellence, but the process starts with the D-Backs unloading veterans and promoting top prospects who can provide comparable quality. That frees up money to fund the acquisition of a truly influential individual (e.g. David Price).
The 2014 rotation needs more depth behind Mike Minor.
Both Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm are set to hit free agency this winter. The former will be coming off a brutal ankle injury, while Maholm's inconsistency makes him undesirable for a perennial contender like the Atlanta Braves.
With the exception of catcher Christian Bethancourt, this organization shouldn't hesitate to make its developing positional players available in trades for quality starting pitching. None of them have clear paths to everyday roles considering the successful, controllable stars that currently populate the lineup.
As we'll make a point to reiterate in the following slides, there simply won't be many trustworthy pitchers on the free-agent market.
Starting catcher Matt Wieters is (unfortunately) a Boras client.
On countless occasions, agent Scott Boras has guided players onto the open market and secured them surprisingly lucrative contracts. He negotiated on behalf of Prince Fielder (nine years, $214 million) and Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $275 million), for example.
The Baltimore Orioles certainly don't want to worry about bidding for Wei-Yin Chen and Matt Wieters, both of whom are scheduled to move on from team control after the 2015 season.
It's been back-to-back thrilling campaigns for the O's. Sustaining that success throughout the decade will hinge on committing to Chen—76.9 quality start percentage this season—and Wieters—third-most Defensive Runs Saved among catchers since 2010 (min. 1,000 innings)—before any other team even gets the opportunity to.
Stephen Drew has played extremely well since Jose Iglesias left town.
Unlike last winter, the Boston Red Sox won't be able to address a million different areas via free agency. This year's class simply isn't that deep.
Thankfully for the Red Sox, they don't need to reshape their entire roster this time around.
Koji Uehara and Jarrod Salatalamacchia will reach the open market coming off relatively strong seasons. Of course, re-signing them long term would be risky considering their age and defensive questions, respectively.
The primary objective for the Red Sox needs to be filling either the closer or catcher position—ideally both—with somebody who's qualified and controllable. Annually searching for help is just too stressful.
After holding onto Nate Schierholtz at the trade deadline, Chicago can entertain offers this winter.
The Chicago Cubs have patiently waited for Theo Epstein and his staff to lay the groundwork for the franchise's future.
They still have a few veterans to flip for prospects, such as reliever James Russell and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. As much as the Cubs value Jeff Samardzija atop the starting rotation, he too could find himself on the trading block if a long-term extension can't be agreed upon.
By shedding players who would be on next year's payroll, Chicago can reallocate that money to a true impact guy.
Outfielder Alex Rios.
The Chicago White Sox won't be relevant this season or next season, and even 2015 is expected to be a struggle.
The lineup doesn't score, the pitching staff lacks depth and the farm system could take several years to begin generating quality players.
General manager Rick Hahn wasn't pressured to trade all his veterans at the non-waiver deadline, but he'd be foolish to retain any of them through the winter. Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios each have their own unique skill set that contenders covet and would be willing to acquire for prospects.
Attendance at U.S. Cellular Field is already pathetic. The best way for the White Sox to impress their fans again is to tear down this Kenny Williams-constructed team and, within a few years, build a more stable organization.
The initial plan was for Billy Hamilton to become an MLB center fielder in 2014. The Cincinnati Reds might want to reconsider, seeing as how their speedster has posted a disappointing .650 OPS at Triple-A.
Shin-Soo Choo has had plenty of defensive misadventures in center, but his power and plate discipline certainly compensate.
The Reds wouldn't want to demoralize Hamilton by making a long-term commitment to Choo.
The best compromise would be agreeing to a contract in the two-year, $35 million range.
The Indians would be in great shape if Justin Masterson was only their second-best weapon.
The Cleveland Indians really do have an excellent core of players and a proven manager to lead them in Terry Francona.
What's missing is the ultra-consistent starting pitcher who they can trust to contribute length and quality nearly every time on the mound. It's been five years, actually, since any Indian was involved in the Cy Young Award conversation.
Despite reports from Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that the Tribe was "working hard" to solidify their rotation prior to the trade deadline, nothing ever happened.
Whatever the result of Cleveland's 2013 campaign, the offseason must involve the pursuit of a genuine No. 1 starter. Everybody except top prospect Francisco Lindor should be made available in trade talks.
Todd Helton hasn't said it directly, but all indications are that the longtime leader of the Colorado Rockies will wrap up his major league career after this season.
That's what the team should be rooting for. The Rockies can't keep pretending that the soon-to-be 40-year-old is an everyday player, or else they'll never make it back to October.
Kendrys Morales looks like the safest option to replace him.
Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander already have massive contracts through the end of the decade.
Locking up Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer in the same fashion involves plenty of risk, but also the potential reward of regularly contending for championships.
Scherzer is a Scott Boras client, so the cost could be prohibitive. He's probably worth it, anyway.
This will be the right-hander's fifth straight season making at least 30 starts. He excelled in 2012 (3.74 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 11.1 K/9 in 187.2 IP), and now has delivered an even better encore performance (2.85 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 10.1 K/9 in 150.1 IP).
Cabrera's track record of power production is even more encouraging. After "quietly" threatening for AL MVP honors on an annual basis, the Venezuelan native reached the mountain top last year. Maintaining the 1.121 OPS he's posting in 2013 would be the best single-season total for anyone since Barry Bonds.
There's little doubt that he deserves to be baseball's highest-paid player.
Carlos Pena struggled for the Astros and didn't attract any contenders at the non-waiver trade deadline.
The Houston Astros remain several years away from competing for a .500 record, much less a postseason berth. They obviously won't be bidding for the best, most expensive free agents.
Rather, Houston's strategy this coming winter should sound very familiar: Sign undesirable veterans to one-year, incentive-laden contracts, hope they overachieve and try flipping them for prospects at the trade deadline.
That didn't really work out last time.
The Astros have already released Rick Ankiel, Ronny Cedeno and Carlos Pena, as they all floundered at the plate. Philip Humber—technically acquired on the waiver wire, but at a similar career crossroads—posted a humiliating 9.59 earned run average before being demoted to the minors. He's now reinventing himself as a reliever. Even southpaw Erik Bedard isn't producing as envisioned, using his pitches inefficiently and failing to provide much length.
The only "success story" from that free-agent haul was Jose Veras. Houston hooked him up with the Detroit Tigers last month and received 19-year-old Danry Vasquez, plus a player to be named later.
Joba Chamberlain and Corey Hart seem like appropriate high-upside targets for the Astros heading into 2014.
What a bounce-back year for the right-hander!
Instead of trading Ervin Santana for a potentially large haul of prospects, the Kansas City Royals saw themselves as buyers at the trade deadline.
That's certainly working out for them. A midsummer surge has the Royals legitimately fighting for a playoff berth, and they'll get the opportunity to extend a qualifying offer to Santana this winter. That will tie him to draft-pick compensation and serve as a deterrent for other interested teams.
Considering the shakiness at the back end of K.C.'s rotation, retaining Santana should be No. 1 on the to-do list.
Miguel Tejada has temporarily resolved this team's issues at second base, but he cannot be trusted to start heading into his age-40 season. Chris Getz (.561 OPS) and Johnny Giavotella (.554 OPS) are even weaker alternatives.
Improving at the position via trade makes the most sense.
The Los Angeles Angels tried desperately to trade Dan Haren following the 2012 season, but ultimately found no team willing to forfeit talent for someone with such concerning medical records.
Going into 2014, they're probably just as eager to convince him to return.
Consider the alternatives to Haren on the free-agent market: a bunch of lifetime NL pitchers with well-documented histories of inconsistency, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana (who will both be out of L.A.'s price range) and a surplus of faded stars 35 or older.
Worst-case scenario, Haren could repeat his 2013 production (slightly above replacement level). He could just as easily find his 2007-2011 form, when 220-inning seasons with sub-4.00 earned run averages were the norm.
Relatively low risk, super-high reward.
It's unclear why this hasn't happened already.
In June, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers were making progress in discussing a record-breaking extension. A franchise that made Andre Ethier one of baseball's highest-paid corner outfielders shouldn't hesitate to satisfy a player who, you know, actually deserves it.
At age 25, Kershaw is a three-time All-Star with an NL Cy Young Award on his mantle. This 2013 season has been his finest yet, one that has elevated him into MVP conversations.
To solidify their future and ensure that this doesn't serve as a distraction next summer, the Dodgers need to make this a top priority.
As Matt Kemp continues to battle injuries, Andre Ethier obviously won't be moved this month.
Going forward, however, L.A. will have four talented outfielders for three spots. Yasiel Puig is untouchable, while Kemp and Carl Crawford have too much money left on their contacts to attract another club.
Meanwhile, trading Ethier would remedy the logjam and help the Dodgers replenish their farm system.
There is no prospect package that would justify trading Giancarlo Stanton.
After the 2007 season, the then-Florida Marlins exchanged budding superstar Miguel Cabrera for the cream of the Detroit Tigers farm system. The franchise has enjoyed only two winning seasons since then, and those acquisitions had virtually no impact (thorough trade analysis here).
Now, with Giancarlo Stanton on the verge of breaking the bank in arbitration, you would expect the Fish to reflect on their past blunder and make a long-term commitment. Stanton has even greater raw power than Cabrera, plus more defensive potential.
MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports that Miami views Stanton as a "building block," rather than a trade chip.
Like it or not (and most Milwaukee Brewers fans absolutely hate it), Ryan Braun isn't going anywhere.
Even if the outfielder regresses without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, the Brewers can't simply cut him. They're a mid-market team that won't flush Braun's nine-figure guaranteed contract down the drain just because he's a bad guy.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee will need to make other sacrifices to bolster the pitching staff. Aside from Kyle Lohse, Jim Henderson and the past couple months of Wily Peralta, there's really nothing to get excited about.
Although Aramis Ramirez hasn't completely overcome his knee injuries, manager Ron Roenicke tells MLB.com's Kevin Massoth that he could return to the lineup this weekend. If the 35-year-old proves down the stretch that he can still produce at the plate, the Brewers will have an opportunity to relieve themselves of some of the $20 million he's owed beyond this season.
Jeff Samardzija would fit nicely atop Minnesota's rotation.
The Minnesota Twins are tumbling toward a third consecutive season with 90-plus losses, and they have nobody to blame but the front office.
The 2012 starting rotation had zero ability to generate swings-and-misses. Rather than taking a flier on Francisco Liriano or another reasonably-priced free agent who could, the Twins went with experience. They traded for Vance Worley and invested $14 million in Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, who collectively haven't made the team any better.
The pitching staff ranks dead last in the majors in strikeout rate and quality start percentage, and the Twins rotation is the only one in the sport that hasn't given a single effort worthy of a 75 Game Score so far this summer.
Minnesota's farm system is considered extremely deep. This winter presents the opportunity to take advantage of that and use anybody not named Byron Buxton to pry an electrifying, effective and controllable pitcher from another team.
David Wright needs better protection in the Mets lineup.
The latest free agents to receive multi-year contracts from the New York Mets were Frank Francisco, D.J. Carrasco and Jason Bay.
All three of them grossly underachieved, so it's not surprising that New York might hesitate to invest heavily in veteran players.
However, to thrive in this sport, you sometimes need a short memory.
With Jason Bay and Johan Santana finally coming off the books, the Mets would be insulting their fanbase if they acted passively. How about a reunion with Carlos Beltran?
Hiroki Kuroda has been terrific the past two seasons.
The outlook for the 2014 New York Yankees starting rotation is a gloomy one.
The 41-year-old Andy Pettitte has become extremely hittable. Even if he decides to continue his career, New York cannot trust him as anything more than a back-end starter. Phil Hughes, an impending free agent anyway, is a horrible fit for Yankee Stadium, while CC Sabathia still hasn't figured out how to succeed with reduced velocity.
All of that will put added pressure on David Phelps and Michael Pineda, neither of whom have ever come close to a 200-inning season.
Even at age 38, Hiroki Kuroda is a legitimate ace. He cracks the American League's top 10 in earned run average, walk rate and wins above replacement.
There aren't many decent starting options available in 2014 free agency, so the Yankees must convince the Japanese right-hander to stick around for another season, whatever the cost.
Still, what good is retaining a rotation leader if none of his teammates can provide run support?
Hitters already on the books beyond this season—Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira and Vernon Wells—won't necessarily contribute much, as advanced age leads them to decline.
Robinson Cano, on the other hand, can be trusted as a durable power source, and most importantly, he's a second baseman. With MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reporting that Chase Utley has agreed to a contract extension, there won't be another available player at the position with Cano-like value.
After formally filing an appeal of his 211-game suspension, Alex Rodriguez's future is in the hands of an arbiter. Even if his punishment gets reduced, there's a strong possibility that he'll miss a lot of the 2014 season.
Assuming that homegrown David Adams won't be handed the everyday job at third base, the Yankees will be scrambling—and likely overpaying—to replace A-Rod.
Jarrod Parker has proven that his stellar 2012 wasn't a fluke.
Thanks to a lot of former top prospects and underrated role players, the Oakland Athletics have the opportunity to repeat as AL West champs. They're getting excellent bang for the buck from Josh Donaldson, Sean Doolittle, Jed Lowrie, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, etc.
In those cases, the front office should be approaching the offseason aiming to buy out a few of their free-agent years. That would ensure they stay reasonably priced, making them easy to build around and just as easy to trade should the franchise abruptly take a turn for the worse.
The Philadelphia Phillies certainly don't need to trim payroll, but doing so at Jonathan Papelbon's expense would be a win-win.
The once-elite closer is already expressing displeasure with the organization in the second year of his $50 million contract, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports:
So then what about this team's ability to turn things around, if not this season, then next season?
"It's going to take, in my opinion, a lot," he said. "And in my opinion, I think it's going to have to be something very similar to what the Red Sox went through a couple years ago. From top to bottom."
Papelbon is an exceptionally consistent strike-thrower compared to other relievers, plus he has never yielded more than a hit per inning in any of his nine seasons. Prior to this campaign, he annually converted better than 80 percent of his save opportunities.
Noticing those stats, maybe another team would choose to inherit this headache.
Wouldn't Stanton look great hitting behind and playing alongside Andrew McCutchen?
Remember, these are goals, not predictions. Just because the Miami Marlins intend to keep Giancarlo Stanton doesn't mean the Pittsburgh Pirates won't try to sway them into a blockbuster.
They actually broached the subject at this past non-waiver trade deadline, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Any package could be built around Pittsburgh's surplus of talent in the high minors, potential stars like Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon.
Right field is clearly a weakness for the Bucs, who have started seven different players at the position in 2013. They have combined for a sub-.300 on-base percentage without providing strong enough defense to offset it.
No more settling for Edinson Volquez every fifth day.
Getting Ian Kennedy was the first step of the turnaround. He's a fly-ball guy under team control through 2015 whose style suits Petco Park.
Still, the San Diego Padres will try to make a bigger splash to prevent themselves from deteriorating in July yet again.
That could mean another legitimate bullpen arm to take save opportunities from Huston Street, or a starting pitcher in the Scott Kazmir/Tim Lincecum mold. The only rotation member missing bats this summer has been Edinson Volquez, but San Diego needs somebody who can do it for more than five or six innings at a time.
Hunter Pence is likely to draw interest around the league.
The San Francisco Giants spent last winter re-signing their favorites, including Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro. They even brought back Andres Torres for a second stint with the franchise.
The Giants evidently weren't thrilled with the other free-agent options, and they certainly won't be this time around. What other available starting pitcher has Tim Lincecum's no-hitter potential? And who's a safer bet for above-average outfield play than Hunter Pence?
San Francisco will surely extend one-year qualifying offers to both individuals. Assuming that those guarantees get rejected, expect strong pursuits for these marketable players, who have such strong followings in the Bay Area.
The Seattle Mariners only dipped one leg into the contenders' pool last offseason. They acquired Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse, and signed Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, all with the objective of revamping the American League's worst offense.
Acquiring Justin Upton would've been a big splash, but the outfielder had the M's on his no-trade list.
No such obstacle could prevent Seattle from adding a free agent like Jacoby Ellsbury. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is a dynamic baserunner and elite defender with good contact skills and a knack for spreading the ball to all fields.
Ellsbury fills a glaring need in center field and atop the lineup. He single-handedly has more stolen bases in 2013 than the entire Mariners roster!
Edward Mujica could be pitching himself toward a huge contract this winter.
The St. Louis Cardinals ought to be excited about the idea of Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller leading the pitching staff, with Trevor Rosenthal solidifying the later innings.
However, some changes seem imminent.
Oft-injured legend Chris Carpenter, for example, admits that his baseball future is in doubt, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. By issuing more walks than strikeouts, Jake Westbrook hardly looks like a someone deserving of a $9.5 million salary (the value of his 2014 mutual option). Current closer, first-time All-Star Edward Mujica is positioned to be overpaid in free agency.
Although several new arms could come from within the Cardinals farm system, it would be irresponsible of the team to neglect the available veterans.
Nobody spends money more efficiently than the Tampa Bay Rays.
They have this amazing tradition of picking up cheap, middle-aged relievers and milking dominance out of them. Joaquin Benoit (2010), Joel Peralta (2011-present) and Fernando Rodney (2012-present) are recent examples.
With Rodney headed for free agency (and noticeably regressing back to his erratic former self), it's time for the Tampa Bay front office to work another miracle.
Will the Rays make over Kyle McClellan? Or fix Joba Chamberlain?!
The Texas Rangers' offensive output is already pretty underwhelming at first glance. To truly grasp how badly they need a bat, consider the friendly conditions of their home environment and all the matchups against the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels that inflated their stats.
With Lance Berkman, Nelson Cruz, A.J. Pierzynski and Michael Young all coming off the books, Texas can splurge on a surefire producer like Brian McCann.
Aside from being a steady defensive catcher, McCann is approaching 20 home runs for the sixth straight summer. Whenever healthy in that span (so excluding his 2012 shoulder issues), he has slugged better than .450 while seldom striking out.
The Toronto Blue Jays will never move past their two-plus decades of misery so long as J.P. Arencibia catches most of their games. It's as simple as that.
The 27-year-old actually got better at framing his pitches this season, but struggles with passed balls and controlling opposing baserunners largely negate that. High home runs will boost his arbitration earnings despite a brutal .267 lifetime on-base percentage.
Much of Toronto's roster is locked into place for 2014 and on talent alone, this team should flirt with the .500 mark.
For the Blue Jays to perform at an even higher level, however, they'll need the next-best catcher on the market after Brian McCann. Candidates for that distinction will include A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz.
The Nationals should resist all urges to shake up their roster composition.
Standing pat is easier said than done for a club that epitomizes mediocrity only a few months after being dubbed World Series favorites.
The Washington Nationals haven't gotten any help from their bench in 2013, and there are serious concerns about Drew Storen.
However, studying the everyday lineup and starting rotation, what's not to like?
There isn't a trio in the National League definitively better than Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth have been terrific when healthy, and even in regression from their breakout seasons, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche aren't making this team worse.
Mike Rizzo should of course seek improvements this offseason, but avoid pulling the trigger on any transaction that would break up his extraordinary core.